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NWA editorial: Thursday's thumbs

Politics, education figure prominently this week

Let's just start off today with a big ol' thumb down to what's going on in Washington, D.C. Given the extraordinarily partisan nature of the nation's capital and people's reactions, we'll just leave it at that. Either side can interpret the downturned digit in favor of whatever it is they dislike about what's going on with the nation's leadership.

And so, we'll promote the only unity that can be found in all this -- all of us are frustrated with some aspect of it.

Want to give some brief feedback on news? Someone who deserves a pat on the back? An idea that needs a dose of common sense? Submit your “Thursday’s thumbs” suggestion by calling Greg Harton at (479) 872-5026 or by email at gharton@nwadg.com.

Beyond that, the thumbs starting going different directions, so we'll get into national politics some other time. Here are a few digital thoughts on recent events:

[THUMBS UP] The Bentonville School Board approved an expansion of alternative education programs at the advice of Superintendent Debbie Jones, who asserted an expulsion shouldn't necessarily become a barrier to a young person's continued educational development. We couldn't agree with her more. It's never made sense to us when students who are demonstrating troubled behaviors are booted from educational environments entirely, as though the lack of learning will actually help. In the Bentonville School District, high school students have had options available, but junior high students who get into trouble haven't. A new program for seventh- and eighth-graders who make bad choices or exhibit troublesome behaviors will give them an opportunity to keep learning, and stay on track toward graduation, while also removing them from the general school population they've disrupted in some fashion. The district also plans to develop such options for middle schoolers.

[THUMBS UP] We remain in a state of denial that it's time for the 2018 campaign to get started, but the politicians assure us we're wrong. Gov. Asa Hutchinson joined a few others in announcing his plans to run for a second term in 2018. Might as well ward off any challengers early, right? Well, it's too early for any kind of endorsement, but we will say this: Asa Hutchison is certainly the kind of candidate we want to encourage to run for public office in Arkansas. He smart and principled in his conservative views, but also pragmatic when facing the challenges of government. He's also devoted himself to public service with integrity and common sense. We certainly can't say that about every politician, but we'd like to be able to say that about every candidate for public office in 2018.

[THUMBS UP] Speaking of politicians, it can only be viewed as good news that state Sen. Jake Files of Fort Smith announced this week he would not seek re-election in 2018. He cited job obligations that will require out-of-state work, preventing him from devoting time to service in the Legislature. Of course, he didn't cite the legal and financial challenges he faces with regard to his contract to build a ballpark for the city of Fort Smith and other business ventures. Let's just say it will be healthier for his constituents to have choices that don't include him and those distractions. It is perhaps no coincidence Files announced his plans a few hours after House Majority Leader Mathew Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, announced plans to run for Files' Senate seat.

[THUMBS DOWN] Leslie Rutledge continues to accept invitations to serve as a talking points surrogate for Donald Trump on national news shows. She should stop. She's not skilled in extemporaneous speaking, at least under the pressure of performing on national television. A lot of people can't handle that kind of speaking, so who are we to fault her for that shortcoming? But she keeps putting herself out on national television, demonstrating this shortcoming. All we suggest is an end to such appearances, during which she's continuously referred to as the attorney general of the state of Arkansas. These appearances don't help Arkansas' image, or Rutledge's, at all.

[THUMBS UP] University of Arkansas Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz enjoyed his bus tour of the state last year so much, he took along some friends this week for the 2017 version. He opened up this year's tour, which concludes today, to new faculty. The bus was loaded with about 40 people. "The best way for our new faculty to learn about Arkansas is to get out and see the state and meet Arkansans," said Ro DiBrezzo, vice provost for faculty development and enhancement and interim vice provost for diversity and inclusion. "We hope to make this a fun annual tradition for our new faculty." The trip features educational talks focused on helping them learn about Arkansas and its history. It's a worthwhile effort for these educators to get a deeper understanding of the state, because what they see in Fayetteville is most definitely only a slice -- a differently flavored slice -- of what Arkansas is.

[THUMBS UP] Springdale's Murphy Park is set for a grand opening celebration Friday after more than a year of renovations. The renovations took longer than planned, but it's unquestionably great to see the city investing in this mainstay of the city's park system.

Commentary on 05/18/2017

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