STRIKING: Little Rock teachers. Brian Chilson

Under their thumb

Hundreds of teachers in Little Rock’s public schools held a one-day strike to protest the state Department of Education’s takeover of the school district and decertification of the Little Rock Education Association. More than half the students in the district stayed home, some of them joining teachers and supporters on the picket lines at schools and later at the state Capitol before a meeting of the State Board of Education. Nevertheless, the State Board turned a deaf ear and began consideration of a nine-member school board for Little Rock some believe was designed to weaken black representation. The State Board also voted to expand the district’s personnel policy committee from eight to more than 40, apparently to satisfy members of an anti-union group. Superintendent Michael Poore, however, said he’d received no complaints and said the change will cause delays in implementing a state law. The lawyer for the Education Department told the State Board that a motion to allow public comment when the issue was raised was necessary, but there was no motion, and chairwoman Diane Zook ordered removal of an audience member attempting to speak. Board member Fitz Hill was not paying attention, at least during part of the meeting, when he was tweeting about sports events.



The U.S. House of Representatives began public impeachment hearings of President Trump, calling witnesses to testify on Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter. Republican 1st District Congressman Rick Crawford of Jonesboro gave up his seat on the House Judiciary to Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio. Jordan, who as a wrestling coach at Ohio State University apparently ignored reports of sexual assault, wasted no time in grandstanding in favor of his favorite assaulter, Donald Trump. 


John Walker dies

Arkansas lost a giant in the struggle for civil rights Oct. 28 with the death of lawyer John Walker, 82. Walker, who fought over the course of a half-century on behalf of minority children in the Pulaski County schools and the rights of African-American adults in all walks of life, changed Arkansas history, bringing a measure of equality that otherwise was not likely to have been achieved. In the 1960s, his was only the second integrated law firm in the South; at the time of his death he was serving in the state House, where he continued to fight for educational improvement. 


Morris gone

Razorback football coach Chad Morris was fired after the Hogs’ humiliating 45-19 loss to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. The Razorback Foundation will reward him with a buyout of a bit more than $10 million for the four years left on his contract, to be paid out on a monthly basis. Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek acknowledged a few days after the firing that he didn’t think the college buyout situation was “great.”

Sales tax for roads

Governor Hutchinson began a campaign to dedicate a half-cent sales tax the public will vote on next year to highway and road construction. Issue 1, a constitutional amendment to make permanent a half-cent sales tax scheduled to expire in 2023, was referred to the 2020 ballot by the legislature. The half-cent tax would raise an estimated $300 million annually. 


Democratic dropout

Josh Mahony, who’d been expected to run against Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, withdrew his name from consideration two hours after the filing period for candidates closed Nov. 12. Mahony cited family health reasons. Republicans threatened to sue if Democrats sought to field another candidate.

Democratic drop-in

Billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled to Little Rock to file as a Democratic candidate on the presidential primary ballot. A late (but not the latest) entry into the Democratic presidential throng, Bloomberg previously filed paperwork to be on Alabama’s primary ballot.

News about fakes

On the same day that state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge posted a warning against fake military charities, calling it “unbelievable that con artists will create charities similarly to existing, trustworthy organizations in the name of our beloved and dedicated military,” President Trump was told to pay $2 million in damages over a televised fundraiser the Trump Foundation said was for veterans but which went to the Trump campaign instead.

Travels with Asa

Asa Hutchinson III, son of the governor, joined his father’s junket to China in November to visit businesses that have received subsidies from Arkansas taxpayers. Hutchinson III, a lawyer, has been hired by one of those enterprises, which received $1 million that his father personally approved. Like Hunter Biden’s lucrative role with a Ukrainian company and the Trump children’s business dealings abroad, the connections are noteworthy. The governor defended his son’s trip, saying Hutchinson III paid his own way.