Here are excerpts from recent Arkansas editorials:
Texarkana Gazette, Feb. 3, 2013
Southwest Arkansas can make a good case for new veterans home
Go get it, guys and gals.
Sometime soon, Arkansas will look to build a veterans home. Texarkana should be on the list of possible locations. If our legislative delegation has not already started to push a southwest Arkansas location, they need to get on the ball.
It's about time for Texarkana_or we even could live with a location nearby_to get some of the economic development in the state.
The Arkansas House voted Friday to form a 22-member Arkansas Veterans Home Task Force. Southwest Arkansas needs to be represented on this task force and we need to lobby for it. The Senate already approved the measure, and Gov. Mike Beebe is on board to sign the authorization to create the new home.
The task force is supposed to look at the cost, ways to fund and potential locations for a home that would replace the veterans home in Little Rock that closed last year.
We know other parts of Arkansas may have more political clout. We have watched highway and economic development prospects and prosperity head north for years. This is why our lawmakers need to get started now.
Texarkana and the surrounding area has more temperate weather than the northern part of the state. We have lots of land. We have quality medical care. We have programs in the region to train and provide quality health care workers. We are growing in the hospitality and retail sectors, so we have places for families of vets to stay and lots for them to do with their loved ones.
We are fairly certain other areas will be jumping at the chance to toot their horns about a location for the home_and to offer whatever incentives they can to sway a decision.
Our local officials and our state delegation need to get together as quickly as possible to ensure southwest Arkansas is part of the conversation, better yet the premier location for consideration.
They should consider this their marching orders.
Southwest Times Record, Feb. 2, 2013
Show More Interest In Art Of Compromise
It's easy to identify with the frustration that led an audience member at a town-hall meeting Wednesday with Rep. Steve Womack to ask why, as a Times Record report put it, "seemingly intelligent people elected to Congress simply repeat party talking points instead of getting together to find solutions to America's financial problems."
And it's hard to disagree with Rep. Womack, R-Rogers, who replied that people should look inward to understand the causes of polarizing politics.
Womack said that congressional redistricting over the last 50 years — and we suspect longer than that — has been carried out to protect political ends, resulting in many districts where the only elections that matter are primaries because the general elections don't bring serious challengers.
And primary elections force candidates to the extreme left or extreme right.
Compromise may have practical benefits, Womack said, but in primary elections, the candidate who speaks of compromise, who reaches a hand across the political aisle, will be labeled a RINO, a Republican in name only, or a DINO.
This refusal to embrace the dangers of compromise is evident in the biggest issues of our day. Surely there is middle ground between the extremes in the gun violence debates, but no one ventures into that no-man's-land to know what that middle ground might look like.
Just as surely there is an economic policy that protects the most important benefits our seniors have worked for, keeps a safety net under the least secure of our citizens, ensures the security of our country and begins to attack the debt our children will bear on our behalf if we do nothing. Whatever that policy is, it's going to hurt, but we can't figure out who it will hurt or how much because the elected officials who must present this policy to us get booed off the stage as soon as they begin to speak of compromise.
For those interested in the possible existence of compromise it will be informative to watch the fortunes of the "compromise" immigration reform bill offered by a group of four Democratic and four Republican members of the U.S. Senate and embraced by President Obama.
The plan calls for increased border security and a crackdown on illegal hiring, addressing two important concerns for the right. It provides provisional legal status for immigrants who meet specific requirements and offers them a road to citizenship, key requirements for support from the left.
But already the shouts from the outer edges are heard. The penalty is not great enough for those who came here illegally, cry some. The eligibility requirements are too great and the wait too long, cry others.
Well, that's what compromise is, isn't it? Knowing that you've found the middle ground because the cries from the two extremes are balanced?
Perhaps the saddest part of this proposal may be that if the compromise is accepted in some recognizable form, it may be less because it offers a pragmatic solution to a vexing issue than because it throws a growing bloc of votes into play.
So it is hard to disagree with Rep. Womack when he says, "It's going to have to come from you; you're going to have to demand that (compromise). There are fewer and fewer and fewer people demanding that their members pay attention to the other side, what they have on their mind, and ask them to work together to compromise."
When was the last time you contacted a member of the Arkansas or Oklahoma congressional delegation to ask him to compromise?
Perhaps the time is now.
Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Feb. 4, 2013
A word for parent power
In neighboring Tennessee, a state legislator from Memphis has filed a Parent Trigger bill. That's the generic name for legislation that would allow a majority of parents whose kids are stuck in a failing public school to file a petition asking that the school be converted into a charter school, or some other kind that has a better chance of educating their kids properly.
Under a Parent Trigger law like California's, parents can reform their kids' low-performing school. In that state, low-performing is defined as a school that falls below 800 on California's index of academic achievement. Each state could go by its own minimum requirements for a decent school.
Out in the Golden West, parents of kids stuck in such schools could change them. Radically. The way a patient with a dangerous cancer may need radical surgery.
Dissatisfied parents in California have a whole menu of choices when it comes to reforming a bad school: They could convert the failing school into a charter school, replace the old staff with a new one, dismiss its principal, or just close the school and relocate its students elsewhere. Which is what happens when a charter school fails. It needs to happen when traditional public schools fail, too.
Our kids are too important, and their futures too valuable, to lock them up in schools that fail them year after year.
Parent Trigger laws are part of a widespread parent revolution on behalf of their kids, whom they can see being held hostage by school administrations and teacher unions, aided and abetted by public apathy. No wonder parents want to reform schools that aren't doing right by their kids, eating up their formative years by giving them a sub par education.
Who cares more about these children than their parents? This kind of law gives them the power to do more than just complain about what's happening to their kids.
What this country needs (yes, we know there are a lot of nominations for that honor) is a parents' union at least as strong as the teachers' unions that have dominated public education for way too long, and with not the best results. Then it would be a fair fight.
Thanks to parents in revolt against mediocrity or worse, Parent Trigger laws started in California and now have spread to six others, including three that border Arkansas-Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Why not add Arkansas to the list while our own legislature is in session? Regnat Populus, the state motto says: The People Rule. Surely that includes parents. Especially when they're trying to improve the education of their children.