- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Southwest Times Record. July 2, 2017.

What promised to be an exciting summer for the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education and the Fort Smith area has gotten even more exciting.

The school, set to welcome its inaugural class at the end of July, recently announced plans for a second college - a $15 million, 60,000-square-foot College of Health Sciences.

The new college is expected to be ready for classes in 2020 and will be home to several disciplines, including a master of nursing program, a physician assistant program and a post-baccalaureate master’s program, ACHE President and CEO Kyle Parker said at a June 27 news conference.

The school’s expansion will mean wonderful things for this area. We’ve already seen tremendous growth at Chaffee Crossing, including the recent opening of a Mercy clinic across from the medical school and ongoing plans for businesses at the Warehouse District. Now, Fort Smith is poised to brand itself as a top-notch location for health care education, with the hope that these future doctors will remain in our area and provide services to what Parker called “the most medically under-served area in the United States.”

The school has worked hard to make things a little easier on its new students. The Residents, the school’s student-housing apartments, are integrated with the school, so if a student is sick, he or she can watch class from home. The school is also paying for all utilities for the apartments. In addition, ACHE announced plans to expand the apartments by 80 units to accommodate students attending the new college when it opens in 2020.

ACHE also plans to develop a 228-acre neighborhood with assistance from Fort Smith, Barling and the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, Parker announced. The neighborhood will feature restaurants, grocery stores, apparel stores and more while generating $25.9 million in taxable sales, in addition to 1,900 new housing units planned within the next decade or so.

In other words, the possibilities are endless at Chaffee Crossing and the ACHE. The future is now.

FCRA Executive Director Ivy Owen said he was overwhelmed with pride and joy to hear the expansion announcement, pointing out that the students who stay in the area when they graduate will offer an economic boost to the area, as will the extra generated sales tax.

According to the ACHE, 64 percent of its first class of students comes from the college’s “service area” of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Missouri. Forty-three percent of the students are from Arkansas, and 23 percent are first-generation college graduates in their families, the college previously stated. The remaining group of students comes from outside the area, as do a number of the school’s professors. What a thrill it is for us to have people from throughout the country come to our neck of the woods to be part of the ongoing development of Fort Smith into a health care hub.

We’re excited to see the progress and are delighted with the economic and health care prospects on the horizon. We can’t help but feel the rest of the state must be envious of our area because of what the ACHE does and will do for this region. We are fortunate the college decided to call Fort Smith home, and we’re eager to see how its development plays out in the coming years. It’s only going to get bigger and better.


Texarkana Gazette. July 5, 2017.

For a long time, voting in this country was called a right but was more of a privilege.

The franchise was accepted as a matter of course for white men, but others - such as women and black Americans - had to fight to gain access to the polls. And fight they did. In the 1960s, another group came along with an eye to marking the ballot. The Vietnam War spurred a movement to reduce the legal voting age from 21 to 18. It didn’t take long. By 1971, both houses of Congress had adopted a proposed constitutional amendment to do just that.

The amendment was sent to the states for ratification. Three-fourths of the states had to approve the proposal, and it took just three months for them to do so. No other proposed amendment has made it into the Constitution so quickly.

On July 1, 1971, North Carolina became the 38th state to ratify. The 26th Amendment officially became part of the U.S. Constitution on July 5 - 46 years ago.

In signing the amendment, President Richard Nixon told a group of young people assembled for the ceremony, “The reason I believe that your generation, the 11 million new voters, will do so much for America at home is that you will infuse into this nation some idealism, some courage, some stamina, some high moral purpose, that this country always needs.”

The 26th Amendment carried a lot of promise. Unfortunately, voter turnout among young people consistently lags considerably behind that of older Americans.

That’s too bad. Our democracy works better when all citizens exercise their right to vote. All ages, all races, all walks of life.

So many of our citizens had to fight long and hard for the right to vote. America’s younger citizens practically had it handed to them.

Maybe that’s the problem.


Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. July 5, 2017.

Ask some Arkansas legislators whether there ought to be space for fine arts education of community college students and a big shrug may be the best response one can expect.

Teaching the arts isn’t about producing jobs, they fret.

Strategically speaking, Northwest Arkansas Community College officials may have fumbled last year in making plans for a new $3 million building dedicated to teaching about fine arts. It seems the mood among lawmakers and other policymakers isn’t so much about education as it is about jobs training.

Evelyn Jorgenson, the college’s president, defended the drive to make room for more arts education. She said area high schools have better facilities for the arts than the community college. Considering that just about every other eye has turned toward the arts in Benton County since Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, it makes sense the community college would look to strengthen its capacity to provide instruction in that realm.

“It’s not just learning how to make a pot,” she said last November. “It’s learning how to be creative, think about things, visualize things. Those are skills you carry with you into every field.”

She should know. Her bachelor’s degree is in fine arts, and she’s president of a college.

From the first brush stroke on this idea, it has met some resistance. Joe Spivey, a college trustee, said last fall that he didn’t think kilns, sculptures and pottery would help the bottom line of the state’s economy. As if that’s the only measure of the worth of what goes on in classrooms.

But he wasn’t alone in his line of thinking and, by January, the proposed building had been retooled as an “integrated design lab,” at a cost somewhere around $5 million, that would provide space for the arts but also for some workforce training programs that have needs for similar space, power and ventilation.

The mold was set, however, in the minds of some lawmakers and college leaders. Just a couple of weeks ago, lawmakers meeting as the Legislative Council in Little Rock balked at approving the college’s request to spend up to $5.5 million to construct the new building. Sen. Bart Hester of Cave Springs said some lawmakers questioned the need for what they had taken to calling a “pottery barn.”

It was a dismissive term that seriously underestimates the amount of thought and work that went into planning for the building. It also reflected what the community college is up against: If it’s not directly feeding employees into employers’ hiring lines, some people don’t consider it education worth investing in.

Hester said there is “zero appetite” among legislators to spend money on helping students get fine arts degrees. They want community college to train workers.

Community colleges should be places that help individuals develop the skills necessary for real-world jobs, but their education efforts shouldn’t be limited to providing a publicly funded program to train worker bees for local corporations. And lawmakers shouldn’t turn a blind eye toward everything the college is already doing to prepare its students for being contributors to the local and state economy.

Northwest Arkansas Community College needs the space, Jorgenson said, as it is running out of room for many of its programs, including those considered workforce education.

The community college would fund this building with money it has collected through its local millage. Hopefully, Northwest Arkansas lawmakers can expand their thinking and embrace what the community college leaders are trying to do because the college is trying to meet some of those workforce development needs along with its broader educational goals, which are also important. The matter is scheduled to return to the Legislative Council in August.

The debate needn’t become a battle between educating a workforce and teaching artists. Surely, within the region’s community college, there is room to devote resources to education that creates opportunities for both.

Surely, nobody in Benton County is going to argue against the benefits and the economic impact of the arts.

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