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Sunday’s Letters to the editor

OPINION January 8, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

Support adult literacy

Dear editor:

About 43 million Americans -- one in five adults -- read below a third-grade level; in Arkansas, it is 1 in 7 adults. In Garland County, 20% of adults struggle with low literacy. That means they have difficulty filling out a job application, understanding a newspaper article, reading a ballot, or reading a book to their children.

Literacy is the foundation of everything. Low literacy reduces income, health and quality of life for individuals and families, and increases costs for society.

Developing a skilled workforce is important to our state's economy. According to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, the average annual income of adults with low literacy who are employed is $34,000, nearly two times lower than the incomes of workers with even slightly higher levels of literacy. About two-thirds of employed adults with low literacy earn less than $16,000 per year. The majority of these adults lack the skills necessary to even begin work to obtain a GED.

Currently, the state supports 23 adult literacy councils, which in fiscal year 2022 served just over 1,500 low-level adult learners. By providing educational opportunities for low-level adult learners, we can lay the framework for them to learn skills and earn the credentials to lead them to available job opportunities and help them achieve self-sufficiency.

In the last year, adult learners at The Literacy Council of Garland County have achieved many goals through improved literacy, including Rosa, who passed her citizenship test. Other adults have passed the driving test, qualified to begin work on their GED, and more.

Founded in 1971, Adult Learning Alliance was created to advocate, train, fund, and support a statewide network of community-based literacy councils that are providing those educational opportunities. Through a team of 300-plus volunteer tutors, adult learners received free one-on-one tutoring or classes in reading, digital, math, health, English and financial literacy.

With a population of about 3 million, we have barely touched 1% of those Arkansans who need our services. We need to improve literacy and give all Arkansans the opportunity to succeed, and one guaranteed way to do that is to increase adult literacy funding.

Local councils around the state in partnership with the Adult Learning Alliance of Arkansas are asking the Legislature to increase funding for these programs in order to reach more adults, increase services, and expand into unserved counties. This increase in funding will be a great investment in Arkansas, as improving adult literacy has profound economic impact. For example, estimates by Proliteracy indicate that simply bringing every low-literate adult up to a sixth-grade reading level would cost $2.2 trillion to the U.S. economy. Imagine the impact of increased adult literacy on the economy of Arkansas.

I ask that each person reading this letter to call or write their Arkansas legislator in favor of increasing adult literacy funding. If you would like to learn more about the efforts in Garland County to increase adult literacy, contact The Literacy Council of Garland County at 501-624-7323 or http://www.literacycouncilgarlandcounty.org.

Sarah Richardson

Executive director

The Literacy Council of Garland County

Footing the bill

Dear editor:

John Jensen asked some good questions as to why the Hot Springs School District is about to spend an absorbent amount of taxpayer dollars on a new turf soccer field and eight tennis courts.

For the same reason they spent millions on a new sports complex after being granted a millage raise a few years ago, Mr. Jensen. Because buildings and appearance are a priority over education. Upon being given that millage raise, HSSD immediately embarked on a spending spree that included the above-mentioned facilities, as well as a new fleet of district vehicles. They chose to do that versus giving their teachers raises or incentives to raise the education level.

I always shake my head when I see one of the district "catering" vans driving down the street. At the time of the last millage proposal, HSSD publicly stated that 65% of their student population was on reduced or free lunch. Perhaps the "catering" vans are part of an effort to combat that. I doubt it.

To answer Mr. Jensen's final question "Who's footing the bill?" Well, it's simple. You and I, the taxpayer. Mark my words, within the next two years, HSSD will have their hand out again, asking for another millage increase on a special election day.

Michelle Randall

Hot Springs

Culture Wars II

Dear editor:

Well, it appears that Gov. Sanders has begun a continuation of the culture wars led by the last president, whom she served two years as press secretary.

Her cabinet choice for education leader is the one De Santis of Florida chose in that state, creating a Pandora's box law often called "Don't say gay." The law there applies to teachers in kindergarten through third grade. Practical parents, of course, don't want sexual issues discussed openly with very young minds and good teachers don't either. But some parents get misinformation (the bane of gossip) and that may result in an innocent productive teacher getting chastised or even fired. Any small teaspoon of censorship can lead quickly to cups of it. Those readers who remember the McCarthy years of the '50s remember how scores of teachers were fired for teaching the "failures" of Communism, and scores of writers were banned and blackballed. Censorship of any subject tends to backfire.

I agree strongly with Rex Nelson, a real Republican of the past, and senior editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, that Ms. Sanders needs to forget national politics. Arkansas needs unity, not division. As Rex pointed out in his Jan. 1 column of the "Perspective" section, Arkansas has tremendous possibilities in economic growth. "We are on the verge of an economic golden era." Rex went on to say that making the state more unified is the path to positive national attention.

Outgoing Gov. Hutchison has promoted strong economic growth, with the temper of moderation in social issues. Sarah needs to continue that and in addition stress the importance of higher education in the 22 community colleges and the many four-year institutions. When we see an increase in degrees granted we will see our per Capita income grow. The beginning of that, of course, is in strong kindergarten-high school education. We do not need division there and a greater shortage of good teachers. A culture war will divide, not unite.

John W. "Doc" Crawford

Hot Springs and Arkadelphia

Protect our freedoms

Dear editor:

The new Republican House majority is a collection of election deniers, QAnon conspiracists, and political arsonists hellbent on gaining power at the expense of our democracy. They'll be in control of the House of Representatives for the next two years and have already shown an inability to govern and or elect a speaker of the House without historic chaos.

We should all be concerned about their far-right extremist agenda. Already on the chopping block? Our freedom to vote and our right to an abortion.

Rather than focusing on kitchen table issues, these MAGA extremists are pledging to focus on punishing anyone who tried to hold them accountable for their attacks on our democracy, including members and staff of the Jan. 6 Select Committee.

It's up to us to resist this MAGA House majority to protect our democracy and our freedoms. We must call out their lies and combat their far-right agenda starting now.

If you don't stand up to these misguided people they will run over you again and think it's OK to do so!

William Ragar

Hot Springs

Print Headline: Sunday’s Letters to the editor

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