Why We Can't Have Nice Things (Editorial)

On May 16, the state of Arkansas took over the Mineral Springs School District because it didn’t have enough cash to finish the year. The Education Department dissolved the district’s school board and hired a new superintendent. “For the future of the district, students and the staff, state action had to be taken now,” Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell said.

How did the tiny 482-student school system in Howard County reach this point?

  • Sometime in the last few years, school officials built a magnificent artificial turf football field, according to a 2011 article on ArkansasVarsity.com. The article said converting from grass to artificial turf usually costs between $700,000 and $800,000. “While that sum isn’t an insurmountable obstacle for a big school, it’s a fairly shocking one for one of the smallest schools in the state … .”
  • The district’s website notes the high school has a football coach and six — six — assistant football coaches. In addition, it lists a senior high boys’ basketball coach and a senior high girls’ basketball coach.
  • The state discovered several months ago that the district was keeping on the books a “phantom high school,” Saratoga High, whose students were actually attending Mineral Springs High.
  • On May 15, the day before the state took over the school district, the Hope Star reported that the school board had accepted resignations from 11 teachers and other employees “in the wake of an on-going ‘fiscal distress’ dilemma that prevents the district from hiring anyone, including a new superintendent.”

Such incompetence threatens the continued existence of the district, and maybe that’s just fine. Unfortunately, it also threatens the educations and future livelihoods of the children the district exists to educate. And that’s a source of deep shame, if any school officials there are still capable of shame.