The flood of coronavirus news tends to obscure the press of business elsewhere. A couple of stories that are developing.
- SOLAR POWER: A coming decision from the state Public Service Commission could help or harm the growing solar power industry. Regular utilities want to cut the amount credited to solar power producers for the energy they put into the grid. They want more of a recognition of the cost of the grid system. Lots of politics. Entergy, ever powerful, has hired a former PSC staff director to help make its case. The PSC staff has been seemingly sympathetic to alternative power suppliers. PSC Chair Ted Thomas has become the focus of ire of at least one electric co-op for a sharp comment he reportedly made to their expert witness. They want him off the case and he’s expected to respond today. Stay tuned.
- FEDERAL COURTS? DESEGREGATION? STATE OF ARKANSAS DOESN’T CARE: When the state finally settled the Pulaski desegregation lawsuit it spelled the end of state financial contributions to desegregating the schools. Boy howdy did it. The Jacksonville North Pulaski School District remains under federal court supervision. It must correct substandard facilities and finish the job by 2023. The district raised its millage to nearly the highest in the state. It has a plan to fix its schools. It counted on $8 million from the state school facility fund to get the job done. The board that makes those decisions wouldn’t give more than $1.5 million. But the district is under a court order, it argued. Tough, said the state panel controlled by the Hutchinson administration. That’s your problem, not the state’s.
- As a legal matter, true. As a moral matter, untrue, particularly given that the needy elementary, Murell Taylor, is a majority black school, while a majority white school, Bayou Meto, got cut a better facilities deal. There are broader constitutional arguments that may be made in this case. Isn’t it in the state’s interest to have one of its untis comply with federal court orders? But we’re also in a federal judicial circuit notoriously conservative and notoriously past its once abiding interest in racial equity in public schools. The state is fighting in court to defend laws that encourage segregation in school districts with large minority populations. It refuses to allow democracy in Little Rock, where it abolished a majority-black school board; encourages leaching of better students to charter schools, and judges schools filled with poor kids on virtually the same grading scale it applies to schools full of privileged children. The Jacksonville situation is just more of the same abandonment of racial justice, not to mention the adequacy and equality demanded by the Arkansas Constitution. Judge Price Marshall’s response to Jacksonville’s coming argument that it can’t afford to comply with his court order will be interesting.
PS: The school facility thing is very complicated as the district’s brief in the case explains.
And here’s the state’s response in an early stage of the process.
The decision of the state is final on school facility funding by the way. No appeal to state court is allowed by law.