Assessments

Is Education Reform Worth the Demise of Neighborhood Schools?

A couple of years ago, an Arkansas legislator named Reginald Murdock began paying attention to the school buses that plied the highways around his state. Some of them seemed to be on the road for a disturbingly long time, subjecting their student riders to extended periods each day when they couldn’t do much except sit.

Murdock introduced a bill that called for a study of just how much time Arkansas kids were spending on buses. The results came back last summer, and they startled a lot of people. The median-length trip to public school -- one-way -- was 47 minutes. The average pupil was on board for more than an hour and a half in the course of a normal day. At the outer edge of the survey, there were children who recorded daily bus travel times of 5 hours and 34 minutes round-trip. The problem existed not only in remote rural counties but also in the urbanized area around Little Rock, where kids were riding long distances to magnet schools. Solving it would require money for extra buses and additional drivers that the state educational system had shown no willingness to provide. READ MORE

Are Democrats Out of Touch with Suburbia?

It’s been hard to open up a newspaper or visit a website these past couple of months without coming upon somebody’s pet theory about why Democrats took such a beating in November. It was the health law; it was foreign policy; it was the job market; it was Obama’s race; it was his aloofness; it was the failure of Democrats to stick up for themselves; it was the money Republicans poured into negative ads on television; it was turnout.

Most of these theories contain at least a grain of truth, but after a while one gets tired of reading them. It’s time to put aside the postmortems and move on. There’s one theory about the 2014 election, however, that has a direct connection to the future of government at all levels in this country. It’s the argument that Democrats lost badly because they have become a party of urban elitists led by a president grossly insensitive to the values and problems of the middle-class suburbanites who cast the deciding votes in state as well as national elections. READ MORE

What Does Divided Government Mean for the Future of Politics?

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, there was some lively debate among journalists and political scientists about what voters were trying to say when they split their tickets and gave themselves divided state government.

It was an important issue back then because most of the country was actually doing this -- electing a governor from one party and a legislature from the opposing side, or voting for a Democratic majority in one legislative chamber and a Republican majority in the other. Both the 1988 and 1996 elections produced 31 states with divided government of one sort or the other. READ MORE

Urban Acupuncture Is Coming to America

A little more than 100 years ago, the celebrated architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham offered his famously bombastic advice to those who wished to change the face of America’s cities. “Make no little plans,” he said. “They have no magic to stir men’s blood. ... Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.”

MORE: Read the rest of the December issue. READ MORE

Liquor Dealers Leading Arkansas’ Fight to Keep Prohibition

ELECTION 2014: This article is part of our coverage of ballot measures to watch.

This is a hectic political season in Arkansas. There are close, hotly contested elections for governor and U.S. senator. All of the most sensitive questions facing the country are playing out in TV commercials hitting every corner of the state. But the most intriguing issue in Arkansas this year hasn’t been immigration, or schools, or the use of military force in the Middle East. The most intriguing issue has been Prohibition. READ MORE