SEN. DAN SULLIVAN

A state senator known for attacking teachers is among those Jonesboro-area residents working to defund the Craighead County/Jonesboro Public Library.

State Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Jonesboro) not only signed a petition seeking to slash the library funding from two mills to one mill but also circulated it to get more signatures. Among those he got was his wife Maria Sullivan.

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Also among the petition signers and circulators was Janice Prather Porter, who’s running for the Jonesboro City Council. Porter’s Facebook page includes a picture of herself posing with Sullivan, who endorsed her campaign.

Library Director Vanessa Adams told KAIT-TV recently that the defunding measure resulted from controversy over a Pride display in the Jonesboro library more than a year ago.

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“If this happens, we will lose all of our programming,” she said. “We do outreach to nursing homes, to daycare facilities, we will lose all of that. We will lose our summer reading program. We will lose our after-school programs. We will lose our book clubs. We will lose employees.” But the defunders “want to punish us,” Adams said.

Supporters of gutting the library say 71% of Arkansas counties fund their libraries at 1 mill or less and say Faulkner and Sebastian counties just get 1 mill. These same library haters acknowledge that 13 percent of the state’s libraries fund at 2 mills or more. What they don’t mention is that it costs money to run a good library and that Arkansas greatly needs to increase, not lower, its educational offerings. And some parts of the state are trying to do just that. Voters, for example, approved an increase to 3.7 mills in 2016 for the Fayetteville Public Library, one of the best I’ve visited anywhere. The Jonesboro library is also impressive, providing books and other services to residents at a time when many lower- and middle-income people can’t afford to buy those services.

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But vengeance is motivated by anger, not by a desire to educate the public.

The defunders also say the Jonesboro-based library has $6 million cash on hand. Great, it’s going to need it all very soon. When the state had a surplus, the far right was thrilled as long as it didn’t go to teacher salaries or poor people.

Sullivan, you may recall, asked the Craighead County Quorum Court to reduce the library’s funding last year because of the Pride display. He also criticized Arkansas’s underpaid teaches earlier this year for complaining about having to spend their own money on school supplies. “Should the legislature be regulating Kleenex, paper towels, handy-wipes and crayon spending?” he asked.

On a hopeful note, a read-in is planned Oct. 10 from 3 p.m.-7 p.m.

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Residents are urged to bring a book or a hobby like crochet work and a lawn chair and set up along the sidewalks of downtown Jonesboro from the library to the courthouse to the municipal building.

“Let’s send the message that our library is beloved and protected and WILL NOT be defunded!” a Facebook post promoting the read-in says.