- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

The Pine Bluff Commercial. Nov. 29, 2016.

Donald Trump is known for his strong language on controversial topics. And while we have been sickened by some of the things he has said over the presidential campaign, now that he is the president-elect of our great nation, we figured his mouth would finally be zippered shut.

Not so.

His latest rant has us down right nervous.

Haven’t you heard? Oh, it’s a doozy. Get this:

Trump said last month that anyone who burns an American flag should face unspecified “consequences,” such as jail or a loss of citizenship - a move that was ruled out by the Supreme Court nearly three decades ago.

Trump’s words, expressed on Twitter, put him at odds with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who was in the majority in the 1989 decision that said flag-burning is a form of speech that is protected by the First Amendment.

“Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” Trump said in a tweet.

So is this a “show us your loyalty papers or the secret police will cart you off to the gulag” kind of statement? It seems that way to us.

Language like this coming from a man who will soon be the leader of the free world is unacceptable. Men and women fought hard through many wars for our freedoms - freedoms we hold as dear as our own family members. They are a part of who we are and what we stand for. That the president-elect thinks burning a flag should be a jailable offense, or worse, that an American should be stripped of his or her citizenship for such an act, is appalling.

Don’t get us wrong. We would never burn a flag, and seeing the sight of a flag burning sickens us. However, it’s a right that we enjoy as freedom-loving Americans. Just because you don’t agree doesn’t mean another person shouldn’t have the right to soak old glory in gasoline and torch her to ashes.

Trump has called Scalia, who died in February, a great judge and said he would appoint someone to fill Scalia’s seat who is much like the conservative legal icon.

But in 1989, Scalia signed onto an opinion written by the liberal Justice William Brennan that struck down a criminal conviction under Texas law for burning a flag during a political protest.

Asked about that vote decades later in an interview on CNN, Scalia said he would outlaw flag-burning “if I were king.” But the First Amendment exists to protect “speech critical of the government. That’s the main type of speech tyrants would seek to suppress,” he said.

Mr. Trump, we aren’t workers in one of his skyscrapers or resorts who are willing to bow to your every wish and whim. We aren’t going to say “ten-hut!” and yell “sir, yes sir!” every time you have some nonsensical, outrageous urge to take away one of our freedoms.

As God-fearing Americans, we will stand up against your egregious notions and fight for our rights as Americans.


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Dec. 5, 2016.

Charter schools are back in the news again, locally and nationally. The president-elect’s choice to run the Education Department in Washington, D.C., has been an advocate of charter schools for years. And she is thus, according to her critics, unsafe to lead education in this country at any speed. Some of us, however, look forward to her wrangling that behemoth of an organization into something useful.

There’s a good reason charter schools make the bosses in teachers’ unions apoplectic: money. Charter schools aren’t required to hire union workers, and those non-union workers aren’t paying union dues. And since state money follows students, each child who goes to a charter school is “taking money out of” public schools. What the unions don’t say, or even will admit, is that charter schools are public schools.

But charters are a bad thing overall, the aginners say. Everybody knows that. Because:

Everybody knows that charter schools take in all the affluent kids from a precinct, and leave the rest to the traditional schools.

And everybody knows that charter schools are mostly filled with white kids from the right ZIP codes, leaving the poorer, darker, and maybe even immigrant kids from the wrong side of the tracks to fend for themselves.

And everybody knows that the reason traditional school districts are shrinking is because charters are siphoning off kids all over.

And everybody knows charter schools contribute to segregation in the traditional schools and maybe everywhere else.

Everybody knows all these things. Until somebody - namely the University of Arkansas - starts studying the numbers. And education policy experts at the U of A start releasing five-part studies. Then … .

Somebody once said it’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know that just ain’t so. Like much of the above.

Your friendly statewide newspaper recently published a lengthy piece on the challenges facing some school districts, especially in central Arkansas. And reporters across the way, as they do, began digging into the numbers.

Take, for example, the challenges school districts face when charter schools open nearby. Oh, the humanity!

For example, there’s LISA Academy-Chenal, which is Pulaski County’s newest charter school. It opened with 540 students.

About 73 are white.

The rest are mostly black, with a good representation of Hispanic and Asian kids.

And we recently met with some folks from the Little Rock Prep school who’ll be going before the state to renew their charter again later this month. More than 98 percent of the kids there are minority students, the lion’s share on free or reduced lunch.


(Longer pause.)

Say, if the purpose of all these charter schools is to siphon off a bunch of white kids from the best neighborhoods, they’re failing miserably at it. At least in Arkansas and especially in Little Rock.

Gary Ritter, founder of the U of A’s office for education policy, said the university’s five-part study also found that only a small fraction of all students who move out of Little Rock’s traditional schools are going to charters. Many more kids who leave the district, instead of going to charters, go to other school districts (see Benton, Bryant, Sherwood, Jacksonville), or go to private schools. That is, if they don’t decide on home-schooling or just up and leave the state.

Also, the study found that students aren’t transferring to schools with high percentages of kids of their own race. In fact, remember the federal lawsuit challenging the opening of Pinnacle View Middle School to serve kids in western Little Rock? Supposedly the school was going to be overwhelmingly white. Turns out that ain’t so, either. The school’s latest numbers showed 222 students enrolled there - 103 black, 91 white, the rest Asian, Hispanic or other. Imagine the embarrassment of those who just knew Pinnacle View Middle, once opened, would be lily-white. That is, if they are capable of embarrassment. In our experience, there are some making money in the courts on the Race Issue who aren’t any more capable of shame than your common sofa.

The U of A’s study might have surprised a few folks here and there, but it shouldn’t have. No matter what the teachers’ unions and other hustlers might tell you, charters are helping a great many minority kids in this state, and especially in central Arkansas. For another fine example, there’s eStem in Little Rock, which picks its students by lottery and has a waiting list of thousands. And of mostly black families at that.

It’s clear by now that these charter schools like eStem and LISA and others are doing exactly what they were intended to do: provide a better option to those who need it the most. Because of charter schools, fewer families are having to move out of Little Rock to find the best of public educations for their kids. And they aren’t having to pay tuition for a spot in a private school, either.

Overall, charter schools are a net plus for taxpayers, families, and, yes, even the traditional schools, which are doing better every day to respond to the competition.

The numbers say so. Now if everybody would know it.


The Jonesboro Sun. Dec. 4, 2016.

It’s impossible to imagine the depth of pain and sorrow in learning your precious child has been kidnapped, raped and murdered, thrown off a bridge into a drainage ditch and left for dead.

It’s even harder to image that the man responsible for raping your daughter - who’s been convicted and sent to prison for that horrendous crime - hasn’t been charged, tried and convicted of her murder.

However, that’s exactly what the Williams family of Gosnell has had to live with since their 11-year-old daughter, Jessica, was murdered Aug. 28, 2013.

No one has been held responsible her murder, and it doesn’t appear prosecutors are doing much to remedy that situation.

Freddie Sharp III’s DNA was found inside of Jessica. A nearby neighbor, Sharp was convicted of raping her and was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2014.

The only thing that could possibly bring any sense of closure to Jessica’s grieving family is that her murderer be brought to justice.

It’s hard to fathom why that hasn’t happened.

“I’ll go to my grave and not see justice,” Jessica’s grandmother Rebecca Burchard recently lamented to the Sun.

She said she was told prosecutors feared if they had tried Sharp for murder, they may have lost the case. It’s true that new evidence could one day surface to better bolster a murder charge, but that’s little satisfaction for a family who feels like the judicial system has abandoned them.

Moving on has been nearly impossible for the Williams family.

“We can’t even get into Christmas,” Jessica’s father, Eric Williams, told Embry. “It’s the hardest time of the year. We go out to her grave, and we set up trees right there at her gravesite. To me, Christmas is just another day.”

Needless to say, the family is extremely frustrated with prosecutors. Burchard said the family feels authorities are sweeping her granddaughter’s murder under the rug.

“You can’t get answers,” Burchard said. “… If you try to talk with them, they get angry with you. Our one peace of mind is that Freddie is locked up.”

Get angry? This family has lost a child in the most inhumane manner. Let’s hope the response from the prosecuting attorney’s office stems from the same frustration of not being able to move the case forward and not a lack of compassion. After all, it’s been more than three years.

As time marches on, so do the lives of others in the small community of Gosnell, where Jessica’s family believes residents have begun to forget about Jessica and what happened to her. A Facebook page dedicated to her memory, “Justice for Jessica Williams,” is keeping her memory alive.

“Her memory is maybe saving other children; something good’s going to come of it,” Burchard said, noting the family has heard from people in similar situations from Australia and England and other places overseas. “We don’t want her death to be in vain.”

It can’t be.

It’s important for all of us to remember those who’ve been shaken to the core by unspeakable crimes. When we forget such horrific acts, our society becomes a colder, less human place to live.

We must remember Jessica Williams, what she went through and demand that her murderer be brought to justice. If not now, then soon.

“She could make anybody smile,” her father recalled. “She could lighten up a room when she came in.”

We all need to make sure that light keeps burning.

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