Arkansas Politics & Government: Do the People Rule?

By Diane D. Blair | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
The Politics of State Services

Looking back over 150 years of public education gives one few hopes for optimism. All the trends nationally which work against education flourish in this state, while those which support it are weak.

Michael Dougan, Arkansas Gazette, August 7, 1983

When I was doing the report there was no question about the fact that Arkansas just jumped out as being a state that has made tremendous progress as far as education is concerned.

C. Emily Feistritzer, quoted in Arkansas Democrat, November 12, 1985

Earlier it was emphasized that for much of Arkansas's history, politics and government were often irrelevant, sometimes obstructionist, and rarely of material value to citizen well-being. The previous chapters have described some extensive changes from traditional to contemporary politics as well as many structural strengthenings of state government. Now it is time to ask, have better politics and better government resulted in better programs and services?

A sweeping and superficial response could clearly be yes. At the turn of the twentieth century, the state of Arkansas built no roads, provided almost no support to education, and maintained few public institutions other than a Neanderthal state prison and a substandard insane asylum. By the 1980s, the state was collecting and spending well over a billion dollars annually on

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