Friday, November 08, 2013

TOPS STORY >> Knight runs for Dist. 41 seat

Leader staff writer

Danny Knight of Sherwood announced this week he is running as a Democrat for the state House Dist. 41 seat held by term-limited Jim Nickels.

The area Knight would represent if elected is Sherwood, parts of Jacksonville and parts of North Little Rock.

“I think it’s an exciting opportunity to be part of the political process,” Knight said in an interview with The Leader.

He railed against partisanship, saying, “If we’re not careful, we’re getting to the point where it’s an us-against-them process, not a for-the-people process…You’re only as strong as those you work with. Times are hard enough without infighting.”

Knight, 67, is a retired public educator with 42 years of experience. The Dermott native served as superintendent of the Watson Chapel School District in Pine Bluff for 25 years. In 1994, Knight was named Arkansas Superintendent of the Year. He was also superintendent at Gould for 17 years. At age 24, Knight was the youngest superintendent in the state.

He said there has been more partisanship in the state government than ever over the last two or three years.

One of the partisan bills Knight disagreed with would have restructured the operation of the state Board of Education. The governor appoints the members.

If the bill had passed, the speaker of the House and the Senate pro temp would have been able to appoint all but one of the members with the governor appointing one member.

Knight explained that this was an effort to recognize more charter schools. He said he fought the bill because it would have given public money to entities that don’t have the same accountability as traditional public schools.

But, Knight clarified, he isn’t against charter schools. “(They’re) free to go out of the box. Some charter schools are for profit and that’s wrong. There is nothing wrong with charter schools if they’re there for the right purpose,” Knight said.

In addition to the charter school bill, the candidate said he was opposed to the highway commission’s request for part of the state’s general fund revenue, which it has never received.

Knight explained that there is a dedicated tax for that group to use and giving them a piece of the general fund would have cut services to the elderly as well as education.

He continued, “One of the challenges we’re facing is getting more jobs in this area.” If elected, Knight said he would work closely with the Economic Development Com-mission to bring industry here. The Arkansas Retired Teacher System he is involved with has already taken one step to do that in Northeast Arkansas by investing $60 million to move a state-of-the-art steel mill to Osceola.

Knight said he also helped develop 22 bills that would have saved the state $13.7 billion that was in the Retired Teacher System’s budget.

In the local area, he supports the efforts of Sherwood and Jacksonville to detach from the Pulaski County Special School District.

Knight didn’t take a position on whether those cities should go completely wet — allowing alcohol sales at restaurants, convenience and grocery stores with a special permit – but he did voice support for getting the wet/dry issue on the ballot.

His main platform is one that stresses unity and service.Knight said, “I’m a listener. I want to be with someone doing the grunt work. We need to have unity without blame…You don’t go in with ‘I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that.”’

It’s about “we,” he explained. “I just want (voters) to look at me for the person I really am. I want them to see me as a person who cares about people.”

Knight has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Arkansas at Monticello, a master’s degree in secondary education from North Texas State University at Denton and a specialist in education degree from the U of A at Fayetteville.

Knight volunteers with the Arkansas partnership for No Kid Hungry and the Hunger Relief Alliance and is a trustee of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System. He is married. The couple has two sons and two daughters.