Our View: State’s education more than just a money problem

You know, it can get pretty darn depressing to know that while Arkansas spends billions of our tax dollars every year on public education – not to mention all the tax dollars that goes toward public services, dealing with overcrowded prisons and never enough money to keep our roads, highways and bridges passable – that politicians and bureaucrats simply can’t brag about what a good job they are doing. Oh, we’ve talked about what an absolute mess the multibillion-dollar Department of Health and Services is in, kept up with how there is never enough highway funds and how our politicians are getting ready to make us pay more in one way or another. And yes, we have repeatedly pointed out the financial problems facing the state’s multimillion-dollar prison system that bureaucrats say is not enough to deal with the growing prison population and overcrowding situation. Let’s make this picture a little clearer. Between fiscal years 2013 and 2014, total government spending in Arkansas increased by approximately $1 billion, from $21.6 billion in fiscal year 2013 to an estimated $22.6 billion in 2014. In Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s fiscal year 2016 budget, public school funds were increased by about 1.9 percent, and human services spending rose by about 6.4 percent. Total state government spending increased by approximately 2.2 percent. Around 41.7 percent of the state’s entire general revenue spending went toward public education under this budget, which brings us to recent report from Education Week’s 20th annual Quality Counts, a weekly publication covering education that is published by Editorial Projects in Education, a Maryland-based nonprofit organization, that ranks Arkansas’ public education system 41st in the nation, down from 36th a year ago. As expected, a bureaucratic spokeswoman for the state Department of Education did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment. The grades were assigned based on Education Week’s tracking of indicators in three categories. Arkansas was ranked 41st and received a D grade in K-12 student achievement; it was ranked 26th and received a C grade in school finance; and it was ranked 45th and received a C-minus in students’ chance for success. One of the problems Arkansas government has, and one that we believe Gov. Asa Hutchinson is very well aware of, is a serious lack of accountability within the civil servant ranks, particularly among those well-paid government employees in management positions. Let’s make one thing very clear, dumping more tax dollars into many of the situations in state government isn’t going to magically make the DHS more efficient, make our children smarter and better prepared, solve all the problems with our crumbling roads, highways and bridges or automatically resolve the situation with our overcrowded prison system. Spending money on more computers won’t make kids smarter. Building more prisons won’t solve the crime in our state, nor will spending billions of dollars more on government subsidies and hand-outs solve the state’s poverty problems. So, when politicians come crying for more tax dollars and suggest higher government fees, keep in mind that all the tax dollars now being spent on governmental services isn’t making things better.

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