The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank, has evaluated the states' standards for teaching U.S. history in school and found that a majority of the standards, including Arkansas's, are "mediocre to awful."
The new incarnation of the UCA Department of Writing-based Exquisite Corpse Annual, will celebrate its release on Friday, March 4, with the "Toad Suck Review Launchapalooza" on the rooftop of Michelangelo's in Conway.
Also: The Buckinghams and Blood, Sweat & Tears at UCA; Homebrewers Showcase 2011 and Queer Prom 2 at ACAC; Sugarland at Verizon; True Soul Revue at White Water Tavern; Little Rock Marathon this weekend.
The Insider was tipped to take a look at Rep. Allen Kerr's recent uncomfortable appearance before the House to endorse bringing the Arkansas State Highway Employees retirement system into compliance with federal law.
The new Arkansas Times is now on the web. I thought I'd call attention to some items of current interest:
* The Insider explains a mysterious and impenetrably worded bill, now law, that passed the House recently with reluctant support from pension reform hawk Allen Kerr.
Bad facts make proper law. The despicable Topeka family that has used the occasion of military funerals to pursue its anti-gay and other agendas has won an 8-1 U.S. Supreme Court decision denying the award of damages to a family that sued over protests at their son's funeral.
The Republicans' bill for a website to review state expenditures came up in a House committee this morning and it was an occasion to point up some growing tension over the movement that developed yesterday among conservative Republicans to block spending bills with even small increases — a total of $200,000 on the three bills.
Several readers have commented today on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that, when it comes to an invasion of privacy exception to the Freedom of Information, law, corporations are not people and cannot claim the protection.
John Brummett gets into the fine print of legislation speeding to approval that boils down to a multi-million-dollar subsidy for AT&T, not to mention some potential work for the utility contractor/citizen legislator who's sponsoring it.
Interesting article with Arkansas relevance in today's New York Times on how corporations, limited in the amount of money than can give to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have poured money into his wife's foundation.The foundation supports schools and Mrs. Jindal receives no pay.
David Crouch, director of public relations at Harding University, got back to me this morning with a university statement in response to a publication and website by current and former gay students at Harding and the university's decision to block access to the website on its computer network:
Harding University is a private Christian university whose mission and policies are rooted in biblical principles.
Mike Huckabee continues to dig himself deeper on branding President Obama a Kenyan. Media Matters notes Huckabee's interview with Bill O'Reilly in which he cites a reference in his own book that a check shows didn't exist.
Sen. Sue Madison confirms (sorry only subscribers can read full story) that congressional redistricting plans under consideration include one that would grow the Fourth through Franklin and Madison counties in Fayetteville.
A lively thread developed last month on news that the Dermott School District was considering cuts in extracurricular activities — including football, cheereleading and the yearbook — to balance the budget in a district with declining enrollment that's dropping near the point of state-required merger with a neighbor.
Well, this beats all. A psychology prof at Northwestern University has been rebuked by the college president for inviting a couple into his classroom for a live sex demonstration involving use of a sex toy.
Police Lt. Terry Hastings is en route to the 3300 block of Pine Cone in Southwest Little Rock where he says two people have been found dead, perhaps victims of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator running in the house.
You can go here to follow Fox 16 Twitter reports from the Arkansas Geology Commission, where the subject is stopping injection wells in Faulkner County that might have some relationship to recent earthquakes in the region.
The very day John Brummett explained how AT&T was angling to hang onto a $3 million corporate welfare payment provided by a phone tax, the House passed the legislation to allow it with 90 votes in favor.
A conservative women's group whose interests include punitive legislation aimed at immigrants has announced that Rep. Jon Hubbard, a sponsor of the legislation targeting benefits provided people without legal residency documents, will be back at work next week after hospitalization for a mild heart attack.
The Arkansas prosecuting attorneys association has announced its endorsement of Gov. Mike Beebe's prison reform bill — a giant measure to alter sentencing, beef up probation and parole and otherwise find ways to curb the growth in expensive prisons.
My in-box is full of links to national news articles and commentary about Mike Huckabee's very bad week — his over-the-top and erroneous comments about Barack Obama's childhood and Natalie Portman's pregnancy and his unwillingness to man up and give a simple apology.
Sunday morning was a great time to go grocery shopping. I'm going to say it one more time because it's ended my frustration over the "new" Kroger in my Hillcrest neighborhood: there's no better total grocery shopping experience than the new Edwards Food Giant in Tanglewood, at least within reasonable range of my house.
More from the Talk Business/Hendrix College polling:
What a shock. The public doesn't agree with plutocrats like high-flying Jonathan Barnett and Madison Murphy that we need to increase the diesel tax and sales tax on everything to pay for a four-lane program to nowhere.
Charter school performance is more about demographic makeup of student bodies than educational strategies. So concludes a report by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and the Arkansas Education Association.
I don't know if anyone other than Jake da Snake and Luke Gordy will take the time to read this, but if you have any interest at all in the debate on education reform, charter schools, merit pay, high-stakes testing and media coverage of these issues I'd urge you to read this cover story in Columbia Journalism Review.
Another good piece of reporting from McClatchy's Washington bureau:
WASHINGTON — From state legislatures to Congress to tea party rallies, a vocal backlash is rising against what are perceived as too-generous retirement benefits for state and local government workers.
Speaking of Tea Party hijinks, I thought I'd pass along an item shortly to be posted on-line in our Insider column:
Do as I say
We did some web-surfing this week on Teresa Oelke, the Arkansas director of Americans for Prosperity, the organization funded by the billionaire Koch brothers to advocate their low-tax, low-regulation gospel through Tea Party organizing.