It was one of those weeks.
The good news is Ford Next Generation Learning, the public school initiative detailed in these pages last week by Assistant Editor Kyle Massey. The program will create “career learning academies” at each of Pulaski County’s dozen public high schools and would direct students into career paths that interest them. The program seeks to focus students’ learning on real-world jobs, preparing them for the working world that exists today.
This is an Opinion
In trying to make public schools engines of economic development in central Arkansas, the program also seeks to restore public trust in public schooling.
The NGL program shows real promise, having raised grades, attendance and graduation rates in several cities. In Nashville, Tennessee, for example, graduation rates have jumped from 58% in 2005 to 84% in 2018.
Entergy Arkansas, AT&T Arkansas and the Arkansas Travelers baseball club have made financial contributions, and other central Arkansas companies are evaluating the initiative. About 140 community volunteers are already enrolled, “business leaders, faith-based leaders, elected officials and nonprofits,” said James Reddish, EVP of the Little Rock Regional Chamber, one of the advocates for NGL.
The bad news is that former lobbyist Milton “Rusty” Cranford last week received a prison term of only seven years. He funneled almost $4 million to Arkansas legislators, bribing them to help Preferred Family Healthcare of Springfield, Missouri, a behavioral health provider, get taxpayers’ money and favorable legislation. The scandal led to the convictions of five state lawmakers.
Cranford faced up to 10 years, but he did cooperate with investigators after his arrest. U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes noted the harm done by federal program bribery: “Bribery fosters the impression the government is up for sale to the highest bidder.”
Indeed it does.