Saturday, September 23, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Searcy escapes Titans

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Titans played Searcy a lot tougher than most of the state’s football prophets predicted, but it wasn’t quite tough enough to get the win Friday at Jan Crow Stadium. The Lions didn’t get close to their average of 54 points per game, but they got 35-20 win in the first 6A-East Conference game for both teams this season.

While Jacksonville didn’t get the win, it did get the highlight play of the year so far. Facing third and 23 from their own 6-yard line, Searcy pressure forced a fumble in the end zone. After one Titan jumped on the ball only for it to squirt loose again, senior running back Shawn Ellis scooped it up at the 1-yard line and ran 99 yards for the score. The extra point made it a one-possession game at 28-20 with just more than 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

While the Jacksonville defense was remarkable overall, it couldn’t get the necessary stop on the next drive to give the Titans the ball with a chance to tie. Searcy’s Division I quarterback prospect, Mason Schucker, passed and ran his way in small bits to the Jacksonville 17-yard line.

The defense moved the Lions backwards from there, foring fourth down and 12 when Schucker found receiver Tim Williams in the end zone for the 19-yard touchdown pass with 6:10 remaining.

Jacksonville got one first down on its next possession, but a dropped pass on second and 7 and a subsequent penalty thwarted the drive and Jacksonville turned it over on downs with four minutes to go. Searcy got one first down and ran out the clock to seal the win.

Jacksonville’s defense kept Searcy out of the end zone the entire first quarter. It was the first quarter this season the Lions did not score. They finally got on the board with 5:30 left in the first half when a short punt gave Searcy a short field on the Jacksonville 40.

Running back Gabe Chap-man went 23 yards on first down to the 17. Two more Chapman runs got it to the 2-yard line, and Schucker sneaked it in from there for the 7-0 Searcy lead.

Jacksonville tied it right back up on the ensuing drive. Quarterback Shavarris Curley hit receiver Harderrious Martin for 21 yards on third and 13. Two plays later, Curley found Ellis in the end zone from 6 yards out with 2:01 left until halftime.

That was just enough time for Searcy to have a drive like it had enjoyed in its first three games. The Lions (4-0, 1-0) went 80 yards in a 1:34 to take a 14-7 lead into intermission.

Chapman scored on the opening drive of the second half to give Searcy a 21-7 lead, but Jacksonville (1-3, 0-1) answered with a 10-yard touchdown run by Ellis that set up the wild fourth quarter.

SPORTS STORY >> McClellan pulls away after half

Special to The Leader

The Sylvan Hills Bears had to travel to J.A. Fair High School on Friday for their 5A-Central conference opener against the McClellan Crimson Lions. The different venue didn’t seem to bother the host team, as McClellan blew open a close game at halftime for a 40-16 victory in the 5A-Central Conference opener for both teams.

“Two or three plays, and we’re in the game,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said. “The score was not even close to being indicative of what it was. We’ve just got to finish drives. If we had finished the drive, we probably win 30-24. We made some good plays. I think McClellan is going to be as good as anybody in the league.”

Each team scored three times in the first half, but one of the Bears scores was a field goal, while the rest of the scores were touchdowns. McClellan converted no two-point conversions, though, so the score was 18-16 at intermission. The second half was another story as Sylvan Hills could not get into the end zone, and the Lions added three more touchdowns and two 2-point conversions.

Sylvan Hills had the first possession of the game, but it ended with a 63-yard punt by Ryan Lumpkin to pin the Lions at their own 5-yard line.

McClellan picked up a first down, but then on third and nine, Bennie Kemp III was intercepted by Payton Terry. The Bears had the ball on the Lion 12-yard line, but had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Tito Mendoza to lead 3-0 with 4:37 remaining in the opening quarter.

Andre Campbell returned the ensuing kick off to the Bear 24-yard line, and the Lions scored two plays later to take the 6-3 lead.

Sylvan Hills responded with a 7-play 65-yard scoring drive with Deon Youngblood scampering in from 21 yards out. Mendoza added the point after for the 10-6 Bear advantage.

McClellan then scored on the first play from scrimmage on a 62-yard run by Kemp to take the lead back at 12-10.

Again, the Bears responded with a score. The drive started at their own 30, and the last 36 yards of the drive was a touchdown pass from Youngblood to Lumpkin on fourth down and three. The two-point conversion was no good, but Sylvan Hills had the lead back briefly at 16-12.

Starting on their own 20, the Lions lost two yards on the first play, but on the second, Kemp hit Jaylin Cunningham for 82 yards and a touchdown to take the lead back at 18-16.

In its first possession of the second half, Sylvan Hills turned the ball over on downs after a long pass was incomplete at the goal line.

Kemp got away again for another 62-yard touchdown run, and the lead was 24-16.

The Bears missed on a 40-yard field goal attempt, and McClellan scored again. They were to score once more with 2:01 in the game, and the two-point conversions were good on both late touchdowns to set the final score at 40-16.

Sylvan Hills had 305 yards of offense, while the Lions had 472 yards. Youngblood rushed 21 times for 96 yards and a touchdown, and was 1 of 2 passing for 36 yards and a touchdown. Lumpkin was 14 of 22 passing for 92 yards and scored a touchdown.

The Bears will host Little Rock Christian next Friday night.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers beaten at LRCA

Leader staff writer

Beebe’s Friday night game at Little Rock Christian Academy was almost a deja vu performance. Last week at Beebe, the Badgers played Wynne tough through the first half, going into the third quarter tied, before Wynne dominated the rest of the way.

Last night in west Little rock, the Badgers went toe-to-toe with the Warriors into the start of the fourth quarter, with the match tied 28-28 before the Warriors reeled off 20 in a row for a 48-28 victory

Little Rock Christian pulled ahead early in the fourth pushing out to a 42-28 lead. Then with about 37 seconds left in the game the Warriors had the ball on the 50-yard line and then got somewhat un-Christina.

Rather than taking a knee or two and sending Beebe home with a loss, Warrior quarterback Jackson Bowersock threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Trey Harris. And if that wasn’t enough, they tried a two-point conversion to get to the 50-point mark, but Beebe put a stop to that to set the final margin.

The Warriors scored first in the game, hitting the end zone with less than two minutes of the game gone behind runs by Bowersock and running back Kendal Givens.

The Badgers responded on a long drive going 70 yards in six minutes behind the strong, grinding out yards running of Anthony Khalil, Taylor Boyce and Connor Bieker. Khalil set up the Badger’s with a 32-yard run, taking the ball down to the Warriors’ three-yard line. A play later he punched it in. The point-after try by Jaime Rodriquez was good and the score was tied.

Beebe set up its next score just as the first quarter was expiring with a 20-yard pass from C.J. Cauldwell to Alex Boyce, putting high where only Boyce could grab it.

The Badger had the ball on the eight-yard line to open the second quarter and worked it to the one where Khalil powered his way in. Another good PAT and Beebe had a 14-7 lead.

The Warriors, getting the ball on their own 23-yard line came out passing. Bowersock threw two in a row and tried it a third time, but with no one covered, he ducked and ran to the Badger’s 32-yard line. Another pass brought it to the 25. Bowersock then handed off to Justice Hill who hit Chris Hightower in the end zone. The score was tied, 14-14, with 8 minutes to go in the half.

Like two heavyweights trading blows, it was now Beebe’s turn to score. Getting the ball on their own 27-yard line the Badger running pounded and grinded out the yardage 3 or 4 yards at a time. But Khalil did break lose for a 20-yard gain and Taylor Boyce surged forward for another 16-yards and then pulled off another 20-yard dash.

With the ball on the one and third down Cauldwell scored on a keeper. A good PAT and Beebe was looking good, ahead 21-14 with three minutes left in the half.

But it was the Warriors turn to swing for the goal line and then made less than 60 seconds later, scoring on a 5-yard pass from Bowersock to Chris Hightower.

Both teams went into at halftime tied 21-21.

Beebe had won the toss at the beginning of the game and opted to open the third quarter receiving the ball. The Warriors tried an onside kick, one of many both times executed during the game. This one went the Warriors way at least for one play. On a run to the right side, the Warriors fumbled and Beebe recovered on their own 30 but just couldn’t get anything going.

Just as I looked like the Warriors were going momentum to take the lead again, Gage House intercepted a pass from Bowersock at the 48-yard line. But Beebe couldn’t turn the turnover into a score.

With just under seven minutes to go, the Warriors scored on a 33-yard pass play from Bowersock to MJ Loggins, going ahead, 28-21 and the third quarter ended on that score.

Beebe pushed the ball to the six-yard line before time had expired behind runs by Khali and Taylor Boyce.

Forty seconds into the fourth quarter Cauldwell took it the middle and crossed into the end zone standing up. The score was 28-28, but then it changed quickly. In the last 11 minutes of the game the Warriors put up 21 points against Beebe.

The first of those points came at the 9:23 mark behind runs by Hill and Bowersock despite a strong open field tackle by Taylor Boyce early in that drive.

Beebe worked the ball down the field and looked like it was going to tie things up again, but stalled on the 15-yard line. The team went for it on fourth down, needing five yards, but only got four. Little Rock Christian took over on downs at the 11. Harris took a three-yard pass from Bowersock and turned it into a 90-yard touchdown score, pulling the Warriors way out in front at 42-28.

The Badgers started driving again, but was spotted when a rare pass from Cauldwell was intercepted by the Warriors’ #55. Little Rock Christian scored its final touchdown on a 50-yard pass.

Beebe falls to 2-3 and will play top seeded Pulaski Academy at home next Friday. The Warriors upped their record to 5-0.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot offense clicks at Catholic

Leader sports editor

The Panthers and Rockets played like old rivals, with plenty of hard hits and penalties in a rough contest, but it was the Panthers that came away with the crucial 42-20 win in the 7A-Central Conference opener for both teams Friday at War Memorial Stadium.

Cabot led just 14-13 at halftime. The difference in the second half was the big play capability of the Panthers. They had three plays of at least 45 yards, and scored on every possession of the second half.

“It didn’t look good at the start,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “They went right down the field and used up half the first quarter, methodically. But our offense looked good in the second half. We hit some big plays, had one long drive. We didn’t punt the whole second half. So that’s a big win. There are four teams 1-0 and we’re one of them. It’s a lot better than being one of them that’s 0-1.”

The fourth quarter was mired by personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties by both teams, something Malham said he has addressed in the past.

“It’s something we always talk to them about, but they’re kids and they get emotional in heat of battle, and don’t always act right,” Malham said. “It was a hard-fought ball game.”

Cabot’s first big play of the second half was a 45-yard run by fullback Bradley Morales that set up first down at the Catholic 22. Two plays later, quarterback Tommy Oaks found tight end John Wiens for a 16-yard touchdown on a one-receiver route. Ben McCullough’s extra point made it 21-13 with 9:56 to go in the third quarter.

Catholic failed to answer, going three and out before punting on fourth and 12. That set up the Panthers best drive of the game. Cabot marched 73 yards in 15 plays, taking 8:33 off the clock. Again Wiens finished it with a 4-yard run on the counter handoff.

The key play of the drive was a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Catholic, when the Rockets had stopped Cabot for a 1-yard gain on third and 5. Instead of fourth and 4, it gave Cabot a first down on the Rocket 23-yard line.

Catholic had the ball for a total of one minute, 23 seconds in the third quarter.

The Rockets held it for 12 plays on its own 80-yard drive to start the fourth quarter. They also were helped out twice on third down by Cabot jumping off sides. The touchdown by Luke Schildknecht was from a half yard out, and Chris Elser’s extra point made it 28-20 with 7:56 to play.

But there would be no exciting finish. Elser’s kickoff went into the end zone, and on the very first snap of the next drive, halfback T.J. Rogers scampered 76 yards, dragging Elser, who is also a safety, with him for the last 15 to the Rocket 4-yard line. Morales did the rest on the next play. Cabot followed its nearly nine-minute drive with one of just 15 seconds to make it 35-20 with 7:41 to go.

Catholic took the next drive from its own 25 to the Cabot 14, but Zhane Harper intercepted a pass on the goal line on third and 7 and returned it to the 28 with 5:24 to go.

On the fifth play of the ensuing possession, Rogers broke loose for 55 yards and the score with 3:16 to go. Oaks was called for unsportsmanlike conduct on that play for taunting Catholic players as Rogers ran towards the end zone.

He wasn’t called for the exact same thing on Cabot’s first touchdown, a 68-yard run by Morales that tied the game with 5:19 left in the first quarter. Oaks trailed that play and ran 20 yards with his facemask in a Catholic player’s ear hole, but no flag was thrown. The same thing on the last touchdown drew a flag after emotions led to so many other penalties in the second half.

Catholic scored first on its opening drive, and made it look easy. The Rockets went 80 yards 10 plays, never facing a third down until third and goal from the 3-yard line. The handoff went to standout junior running back Samy Johnson. He found the gap between the tackles closed, but bounced it outside and beat every defender to the left corner of the end zone with 7:53 left in the first quarter.

After Morales’ long touchdown run, the two teams traded three-and-out possessions before Catholic scored again. This time it was a 21-yard field goal by Elser that capped a 12-play, 63-yard drive with 9:14 to go until halftime.

The Panthers (3-1, 1-0) then had their best drive. Starting on their own 32 and getting one first down to the 43, Cabot began getting yards in chunks. An option pitch to halfback T.J. Rogers picked up 17 yards on second and 9. A tight end counter handoff to John Wiens got another 20 to the Catholic 19.

Another option, this one the other way to Noah Sorrell, went the rest of the way for the go-ahead touchdown. McCullough’s extra point put the Panthers up 14-10 with 6:37 left until halftime.

Catholic got a field goal on the last play of the first half, and it came with the help of Cabot penalties.

The drive started poorly. Johnson dropped the kickoff, and was only able to advance to the 12-yard line. The Rockets went to work, and advanced to the Cabot 36, where they faced fourth and 7 with 2:30 left in the half. Catholic sent Elser out to attempt a 53-yard field goal, but Cabot called timeout.

During the break, Catholic coach John Fogelman changed his mind, and decided to go for it. A hard count got Wiens to jump off sides, making it fourth and 2. Fullback Luke Schildknecht then picked up 4 yards for the first down to the Cabot 27 with 1:55 left.

Three more plays made it fourth and 3, and Catholic attempted a 38-yard field. Elser missed, but he was hit after the kick, giving the Rockets a first down at the 15. Cabot’s Zhane Harper then picked off a pass in the end zone, but the play was nullified by a pass interference penalty that saw receiver William Plafcan dragged to the ground during his route.

Catholic then settled on a 24-yard field goal on second down as time expired, making it 14-13 at the break.

Cabot finished with 455 total yards of offense, 38 through the air and 417 on the ground. Rogers led all players with 11 carries for 171 yards and one touchdown. He had seven carries for 36 yards through three quarters, and four carries for 135 yards in the fourth quarter.

Morales finished with 14 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns.

Catholic (2-2, 0-1) had 371 total yards. Johnson led the Rockets with 21 totes for 125 yards to go with four receptions for 42 yards.

Friday, September 22, 2017

EDITORIAL >> State to lose $6 billion

Americans who may have found no reason to feel indebted to John McCain for enduring five and a half years of mental and physical torture as a captive in an unpopular war may find more palpable reasons to be grateful for the old soldier’s sacrifices next weekend. He may protect the right of 20 to 30 million Americans to get medical care when they need it.

McCain, who is dying of brain cancer, said Friday that he could not vote for Graham-Cassidy, the latest and final version of a repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that his party has long promised. The bill would demolish the nation’s health-insurance system over the next 10 years and replace it with something no one can possibly anticipate.

If only two Republican senators join him, the bill will be dead and Congress and the president will have to return to the system used to pass laws for the previous 225 years—all the country’s elected representatives doing it together. Deeply divided congresses still worked year after year to get the kinks out of Social Security, Medicare, veterans’ health care, antitrust and environmental laws. They should be able to do it, too, with the Affordable Care Act, which tried to use the country’s old commercial insurance system to extend the right to medical care to nearly everyone rather than follow the European models of socialism or government-provided insurance.

Graham-Cassidy’s sudden appearance with the backing of the nation’s biggest political donors—the Koch brothers, Mercers and the like—took everyone by surprise. Six months of failures in either the Senate or House of Representatives left the Affordable Care Act standing for some 20 million Americans who depend upon it for their medical care but badly crippled by President Trump’s promises to undermine it by denying federal support for signups and out-of-pocket expenses to help poor people afford the coverage.

Here in Arkansas, Graham-Cassidy has been particularly perplexing. Arkansas’ congressional delegation, with a rare exception here and there, has gone along with every “repeal and replace” bill, no matter how harmful to the 400,000 working people who depend upon it or how damaging to the state’s tight budget. The Affordable Care Act—Republicans called it Obamacare to rev up the popular fury over the passage of a law backed by the black president—created tens of thousands of jobs, returned many people to the workforce and infused more than a billion dollars a year into the Arkansas economy when it began to kick in four years ago. Our unemployment rate plunged to historic lows.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who privately or publicly opposed the earlier bills that subverted the state’s insurance system and the budget, announced his support for Graham-Cassidy because, he said, it would give the state some flexibility in dealing with Arkansas’ peculiar health problems. We are still perplexed how that could be so.

Under Graham-Cassidy, Medicaid coverage for low-income working adults would end in 2020—or at least the specific federal support. The flexibility the governor spoke of is this: His successor will have the flexibility of dealing with the state’s medically frail population—more than a million Arkansans need Medicaid coverage at least some time every year—with about a billion dollars a year less federal support. The state will have the enjoyable option of raising taxes, cutting off aid to people in nursing homes, health care for children or the blind and disabled, or else curtailing other services for Arkansans, like prisons, law enforcement or schools.

Hutchinson doesn’t seem susceptible to the terrible pressures faced by some other Republican governors who have opposed one or more of the repeal bills or the senators and congressmen who are threatened with heavily financed Republican opponents in next year’s primaries. Hutchinson is running next year and will get no serious opponent, but he can’t run again after Graham-Cassidy takes effect.

Maybe that is the explanation. He can be a loyal Republican advocate of eliminating all vestiges of the Obama presidency and not have to deal with the real consequences.

Repeal and replace has a single underlying objective. It is not better or more efficient health care. It is the premise of the Koch brothers, Mercer and of a few senators, including Rand Paul of Kentucky, who says he plans to vote against Graham-Cassidy because it does not go far enough to deny medical care to the poor. That is the premise behind it all. People who cannot afford medical care are not entitled to medical care. Gov. Hutchinson already is seeking Washington’s permission to cancel the health insurance of tens of thousands of poor people who cannot meet certain conditions like regular jobs or proof of residency, their incomes are slightly above the poverty line, or else they lack diligence in keeping up with government paperwork.

We are dismayed at the lack of honesty—could it be mere ignorance of the law and their own bill?—by the actual sponsors of Graham-Cassidy. Senator Cassidy said his big concern was that people with pre-existing conditions have to pay too much to buy health insurance. He said his bill would help them! It would help them by eliminating their protections entirely. If his bill were enacted, their premiums would skyrocket, if they could get insurance at all. He could not explain exactly how his bill would help those people. It would dump the problem on the states. Perhaps a state official somewhere could think of some way to do it without federal assistance.

As for the Arkansas budget, think of Graham-Cassidy as doing this: It will take more than $6 billion of federal aid for Arkansas health care between 2020 and 2026 and give it to Texas. Graham-Cassidy would transfer some $25 billion from states like Arkansas, Kentucky and California and hand it to the Lone Star state. Is that a great deal for Arkansas, or what?

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville to hold meeting on downtown

Leader staff writer

One of Jacksonville’s biggest problems is that it has no historic downtown.

“We aren’t a county seat, so we don’t have a courthouse square,” Mayor Gary Fletcher told the city council on Thursday. “But we have a beautiful library on Main Street that can become our anchor.”

Plans for what the city has planned from Main Street and Hwy. 67/167 east to the overpass will be unveiled at a luncheon at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

It’s taken more than a year of behind-the-scenes work by Dr. Robert Price, the city’s director of downtown planning and development, and his committee to put into action a plan for revitalizing “downtown” Jacksonville.

Plans include a fountain-style welcome-to-the city park area where an abandoned gas station sits, extensive streetscape work up and downtown Main Street, a focus on the five-points area of Dupree, James and Main streets, bringing in more pedestrian traffic and brining in a mix development of businesses and living areas.

Price and his group came up with 13 objectives to improve the city in a 140-page report. The first one was to coordinate efforts to pass the “alcohol-by-drink” issue, but after that almost every other objective can be tied to the Main Street, or the downtown area.

In a letter Fletcher mailed to most property owners near Main Street, he wrote, “The city of Jacksonville recognizes the changing retail landscape and how it has affected property use and values across the country. Our Main Street business environment needs to address the growing problem of losing appeal for business as well as the customer base.”

He said Price and his group have created a plan that will “help create a place where people will want to come and be a part of a new as well as our established business environment. This plan will increase potential property value as well as draw new interest in area property and reinvigorate our downtown into a destination to help keep our shoppers here and draw from surrounding areas as well.”

“It is time we address new ways to save our downtown, turn it around and get in a leadership position for our New Downtown that will be anchored with the new $65 million Jacksonville High School. This will be a game changer for all of us if we get in a leadership role to help make this happen,” the mayor wrote.

Price and his group are looking at a three-prong approach to revitalizing, developing and promoting Jacksonville’s downtown.

“First is the Gateway, or entrance, followed by the Loop (the area where Main Street is a divided boulevard) and the Five-Points area of Main, James and Dupree streets,” he said.

Price said the new high school topping the knoll off Main Street was going to be a great start, “but what else is going to happen to improve Jacksonville?” he asked.

He said a study by Retail Attraction showed that Jacksonville was losing $100 million a year because people and businesses are going elsewhere and that needed to change.

Price called the plan to bring a vibrant downtown to Jacksonville an economic plan. “Almost everything in our Master Plan calculates in some way into an economic development strategy. This applies whether you are beautifying streets or attracting new restaurants, it all helps regarding the quality of living and the economy.

Price said the Gateway or lead into Main Street from Hwy. 67/167 is the most logical place to start and get “the biggest bang for the buck.”

Retired Admiral Bob Carius, who has helped revitalize downtown Batesville, will be speak at Wednesday’s lunch. The mayor said the admiral will explain how downtown Batesville was revitalized.

TOP STORY >> Governor backing Obamacare repeal

Arkansas Nonprofit News Network

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday endorsed the so-called Graham-Cassidy health care bill and urged the U.S. Senate to approve the partisan legislation before a Sept. 30 deadline makes its passage effectively impossible.

The governor called the bill — sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) — the nation’s “last, best chance to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”

Although Hutchinson is a Republican and campaigned against the ACA, or Obamacare, his support for the latest repeal effort was not a foregone conclusion. He opposed legislation earlier this year that would have pared back federal Medicaid spending and unwound other parts of the ACA. The governor said in July that one such bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, would “shift costs to the states, and that leaves states like Arkansas with few choices.”

Arkansas, unlike most Southern states, chose to expand its Medicaid program under a funding stream made available by the ACA, thereby extending health care coverage to some 300,000 low-income adults and drastically reducing its uninsured rate.

Hutchinson said Tuesday that the Graham-Cassidy bill was different. “It does not represent a significant cost-shift to the states,” he said. The proposal would “take the heart out of the ACA” while not harming Arkansas in the process, he added later. “We’ve looked at these numbers carefully, our whole team, and I’m satisfied that there’s not a retrenchment on the federal participation in the health care system here in Arkansas.”

Yet several health care experts said Graham-Cassidy would slash projected federal funds to Arkansas. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C., estimated the state would see a $1.1 billion reduction in federal funding in 2026 when compared to the money Arkansas would expect to receive that year under existing law. That’s partly because the bill would trim overall spending, but also because it would reallocate money between the states in a way that would penalize Arkansas, according to Judy Solomon, the CBPP’s vice president for health policy.

“There’s a redistribution of the funds from states that have taken up the Medicaid expansion, like Arkansas, to states that haven’t,” Solomon said. “For the most part, the states that are winners [under Graham-Cassidy] are states that did not expand Medicaid. The states that are losers are states that did. … You’re starting at a lower point than you would under current law, and then you’re redistributing from states like Arkansas to states like Alabama and Mississippi and Texas.”

Those three states are among the 19 that refused to expand Medicaid under the ACA. If Graham-Cassidy becomes law, the CBPP estimates that Alabama will see a federal funding increase of $1.7 billion, Mississippi $1.4 billion and Texas $8.2 billion, the same year that Arkansas will see a $1.1 billion reduction.

Avalere Health, a D.C.-based consulting firm, released an analysis of Graham-Cassidy Sept. 20 that concluded Ark-ansas stands to lose out on $6 billion in federal funding over the period between 2020 and 2026 if the bill passes. The Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care nonprofit based in California, published a report Sept. 21 that projected Arkansas’s loss to be $2.2 billion for the same period. Though the analyses differ by a significant margin, both show that states that rejected Medicaid expansion would benefit at the expense of those that accepted it. Alabama, Mississippi and Texas would see their share of federal funds rise by $3.4 billion, $5.3 billion and $28.4 billion, respectively, from 2020 to 2026, the Kaiser Family Foundation report indicated.

On Tuesday, Hutchinson chose a different comparison. “It should be noted that 37 percent of all the federal funds in the Affordable Care Act go to four states: California, New York, Massachusetts and Maryland,” he said. “I don’t think anyone in middle America would see that as a fair distribution of funds. And so what the Graham-Cassidy bill does, it not only repeals the individual mandate and the employer mandate ... but it also block-grants to states the federal funds that are currently utilized, [and] it does it in a way that is more equitably distributed and does not represent a cost-shift to the states.…The block grants to the states will keep up with the health care inflation rate.”

Graham-Cassidy would transform the American health care system by instituting major spending cuts and giving states much broader authority to structure and administer programs independent of federal oversight. It would end the Medicaid expansion in 2020, along with the ACA’s premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, which are funding mechanisms that help low-to-moderate income people buy insurance plans on the individual marketplace. All of that money would instead be distributed to all 50 states in the form of block grants, the amount of which would be based on a complex funding formula partly dependent on a state’s poverty rate.

But the bill does not fund the block grants beyond 2026, meaning the money would disappear entirely if Congress did not act to renew it at that time. The Kaiser Family Foundation report said that would result in an additional $3.1 billion removed from Arkansas in 2027 alone. Graham-Cassidy would also change funding for traditional Medicaid to a per-capita funding model that would limit spending on children covered by ARKids, disabled people and the elderly.

In addition to overhauling Medicaid, Graham-Cassidy would undo the ACA mandate that individuals be insured and that employers provide insurance to their workers. States could opt out of consumer-protection regulations that the ACA imposed on the insurance industry, including requirements that insurance cover certain “essential” benefits — such as mental health, substance abuse or maternity care — which were intended to prevent the sale of substandard, bare-bones health plans. States could also waive the ACA’s prohibition against insurers charging more to customers with pre-existing medical conditions.

The Congressional Budget Office has yet to issue an estimate on the bill’s projected impact to the uninsured rate or the federal deficit. A preliminary CBO score on Graham-Cassidy may be available by early next week. But Senate Republicans are racing to pass the legislation before Sept. 30, which is when the window expires for the chamber to approve an ACA repeal bill with just 50 votes using the budget reconciliation process. Republicans control the Senate 52-48.

Most Republican senators seem to be on board with the proposal, including Arkansas Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton, but several key Republican lawmakers who voted “no” on an earlier repeal effort have yet to announce a public position.

Sen. John McCain of Ari-zona opposes the bill. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are also unlikely to vote yes. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has said he’ll oppose the Graham-Cassidy measure because it doesn’t go far enough in repealing Obamacare.

Marquita Little, health policy director at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said the bill “has many of the same dangerous features as previous proposals, although repackaged in a new way. It would result in deep cuts to Medicaid funding. It would result in, we think, tens of thousands of Arkansans losing coverage. It would result in cost increases, and it would remove a lot of important consumer protections, such as those for pre-existing conditions.”

Asked whether Graham-Cassidy constituted a cost shift to Arkansas, Little said, “We think it absolutely is. And we’re all patiently waiting for the CBO analysis to know what the impact really will be. … There is definitely going to be a scenario where states are operating with significantly fewer funds, and so there’s just no way around the idea that it doesn’t create a cost shift to the states and require states to make changes.

“Some folks might interpret that to mean, ‘It’s not an automatic cost shift because the states get flexibility in determining how they use funds’ and maybe that money is freed up in other ways … but we are opening the door to having to make dangerous changes to what we cover [and] who we cover in order to operate in the environment where we have fewer federal dollars.”

Bo Ryall, president and CEO of the Arkansas Hospital Association, said his organization has “a lot of unanswered questions” about Graham-Cassidy. “The numbers I’ve seen show that there would be less money going to the states, and Arkansas in particular would see less funding under this formula from 2020 to 2026. ... We’re concerned about that cost shift.” Hospitals have seen their uncompensated care numbers fall dramatically in recent years as Arkansans have gained insurance under the ACA, and Ryall said that policies that cause people to lose insurance would fall on rural hospitals particularly hard. (The AHA is a financial donor to the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network’s health coverage.)

Hutchinson said on Tuesday that allowing states the flexibility to spend federal health care money how they choose would allow them to defray a possible rise in hospitals’ uncompensated care. “When you get rid of the individual mandate and give people freedom of choice, some are going to decide not to have [insurance], and so there will be some uptick in uncompensated care,” he acknowledged. “But what the block grant does is allow us the flexibility to arrange our own system, so that we can cover [insurance] on the front end, but if there’s some that slip through and wind up in the hospital in the uncompensated care category, then we can cover that.”

But under the block grant funding model, the state would have to balance uncompensated care costs with every other health care need. That would inevitably mean tradeoffs about what the state paid for and what it didn’t. “We’d have to see the numbers, and then if there’s enough money there,” Ryall said. “We’re suspect about there being enough money in the pot to do that.”

On Tuesday, Hutchinson said that reports of Arkansas losing hundreds of millions of federal health care dollars under Graham-Cassidy are “just not so. … If you look at the entire nation, the Graham-Cassidy bill between now and 2026 will fund 95 percent of what is currently funded under the ACA.” Asked to clarify later, J.R. Davis, a spokesperson for the governor, wrote in an email that “federal spending will grow at a slower rate under Graham-Cassidy than under current law. But federal spending on Medicaid in 2026 is already lower under the latest CBO baseline than it projected the previous year. No one views the lower spending level as a loss of federal funds. Graham-Cassidy sets a budget. This is the fiscal discipline that is long overdue in Washington. It is a realistic budget that is achievable.”

The major difference between the governor’s analysis and those performed by groups like the Kaiser Family Foundation is that they are using different points of reference. Kaiser compared what states will receive in 2026 if the ACA is left intact to what states will receive in 2026 if Graham-Cassidy becomes law. The governor appears to be comparing what states receive now, in 2017, to what states will receive in 2026 if Graham-Cassidy becomes law. Spending on Medicaid, and health care in general, has been growing for decades, and the ACA envisions growth in spending that would keep pace with beneficiaries’ needs. In contrast, Graham-Cassidy would establish strict limits on spending.

The governor said that the proposal represented “our only chance” to repeal Obamacare. If it fails to pass, he said, “the Affordable Care Act is here in perpetuity, and it’s built into the fabric of our health care system, and I don’t see it changing.”

Despite others’ concerns about spending cuts, Hutchinson projected confidence that giving Arkansas more control over its health care system would allow the state to drive down costs and create savings in innovative ways. He told reporters on Sept. 19 that Graham-Cassidy “repeals as much of the ACA as it can under the reconciliation [process] … and then it allows states to make decisions beyond that. We can reject more of it, we can retain parts of it, we can come up with our own formulation as to what our health care system should be like in Arkansas — or any individual state.”

Solomon, of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, was not so optimistic. “The problem is that the funding is going to fall short,” she said. “It’s not going to be enough, particularly if you think about anything happening that increases the need for coverage. A recession. A natural disaster. The money is fixed — a fixed allotment that starts off not being enough, and anything that increases the need would make it less likely [to be enough.]”

“There’s a proof point here that hasn’t been met: Show me how you would do that. Show me how you would take what you’re getting and how you would build yourself a program. … That’s why it’s very hard for me to understand how states that have had successful [Medicaid] expansions — and Arkansas has been very successful — think that this can be a substitute.”

This reporting is courtesy of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans. Find out more at

TOP STORY >> Escaping East Germany

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville resident Ursula Czichon was a little girl when her family fled to western Germany as the Russian army advanced into eastern Germany toward the end of the Second World War in early 1945.

Czichon, 78, with her sister, Magda Kubis, 81, talked about their experience during a Sertoma Club meeting at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History last Wednesday. Czichon, who married an American service member, has lived in Arkansas for almost 60 years. 

Czichon was 5, and Kubis was 8, living in Bolko in eastern Germany (now Bolkow in southwestern Poland). Their family still had a chance to get out of eastern Germany to escape the Red Army if they could reach relatives in western Germany.

In January 1945, Czichon, Kubis, their 1-year-old sister, their mother and her mom’s 70-year-old parents packed what they could carry on their backs and began their 400-mile, five-month trek west to their uncle’s home in Hungen, Germany, 50 miles south of Frankfurt, arriving in May. 

“We literally walked away from everything,” Czichon said. 

Their father was drafted in 1945 as the Nazi regime was collapsing. He was later captured by the Russians and sent to Siberia. He was athletic and tried to escape twice but failed. He was one of the last prisoners of war released in 1949 because he could speak Russian and was used as an interpreter. After his release, he was 100 percent disabled and lived to be 71.   

“When walking, we always walked close to the woods because bombs were falling. We had to run and hide, lying down on the ground. We let everything go by and then got up again and traveled a little bit farther. It was a slow walk,” Czichon said. 

“We got rides on hay wagons, sometimes on a train wherever we could catch a ride, because we were among many others. There were flatbed cars. People climbed on and lay down close together. I remember one night on the train, we lay very still. A lot of railroad tracks were already bombed. The train went over one area, and we felt the tracks give a little bit. We hoped and prayed we made it through that particular area,” she said.

“On the journey we slept where people took us in, hay barns, on straw in schools. The hygiene was terrible. My sister got lice and had to get it treated. She received the wrong medicine, and it burned her. I had boils on my head and had to have my hair shaved off. I wore a bonnet for three month until my hair grew back,” Czichon said.

Four weeks before arriving at their uncle’s house, they were in Bavaria. People people there let the family sleep in hay barns and go into the fields and find something to eat.

“That’s where my little sister passed away. She didn’t have any milk, medicine and she had pneumonia. We had to bury her there. That was pretty hard,” Czichon said.

“People exchanged jewelry for food. We were malnourished. My grandfather gave his food to us during the trip. When we got to Hungen, he was put to bed right away. A week later, he died,” she said.

Their uncle was on the police force and had nice housing. He took care of them until they got an apartment of their own.  Their grandmother lived for five more years.

Czichon came to the U.S. in 1958. She was 17 years old and married a service man. “I love it here. This is home and am very proud to be an American,” Czichon said.

She worked 20 years with Barnes Security as a security guard, later training armed guards. Czichon lived in Jacksonville for 18 years with her daughter, Pat, and her husband, Gary Green. Czichon has three children.

Kubis, who lives in Bottrop, Germany, is visiting her sister this month.

She was a homemaker and worked as a city recreation administrator. She has four children. She was married 54 years until her husband died three years ago.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Talent influx has Lions rolling into Jan Crow

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Titans lost two starters for the season and still almost beat the Searcy Lions last year on the road. But this year’s Searcy Lions aren’t the same squad.

The Lions got Division I quarterback prospect Mason Schucker from Clarksville last year, and they have added several more transfers this season.

Perhaps no team benefited more than SHS from the canceling of the football program at talent-rich Augusta. Six former Red Devils are now Lions, and they are having an immediate impact at the skill positions. Searcy’s leading receiver from last year, Trenton Turner, has five total catches this season in three games.

Schucker has found two new favorite targets in Augusta transfers Eli Nevels and Alonzo Tripp. Nevels has 15 receptions for 380 yards so far this season. Tripp has 15 catches for 373 yards.

Searcy has piled up the points and yardage in its three wins this season, and Schucker has put up absurd statistics. The Lions beat Valley View 63-41, Batesville 47-9 and Morrilton 51-17.

Schucker has already thrown for 1,106 yards and 18 touchdowns, completing 49 of 83 pass attempts for a 50-percent completion rate.

He also has running back Gabe Chapman, who transferred in 2016 after rushing for more than 2,000 yards at Harding Academy. The former Wildcat rushed for more than 2,000 yards last year for HA, and is averaging more than 100 yards per game this season. He has 64 carries for 393 yards. He didn’t have a reception in the first two games, but caught three passes for 107 yards against Morrilton.

“They’re not the same team as last year,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “They got weapons everywhere. It’s amazing how good you can get in a hurry when all the best players from two or three different teams show up. It’s going to be a major challenge for our defense”

So far, no one Searcy has played has been able to get pressure on Schucker. Jacksonville hopes to change that, and the front four on defense have been able to get pressure in its three games.

“We may bring a few blitzes here and there to get those guys up front some help,” Hickingbotham said. “We can’t just let him stand back there or he’ll pick you apart. He’s not afraid to throw a laser. He’ll take some chances, and it hasn’t always worked out for him. He’s had a couple picked and taken back for touchdowns. So we’re hoping if we can rush him a little bit we’ll get him to make some bad decisions.

“The bad thing is, if you stop the passing game, now you’ve got to deal with Chapman and that running game.”

Searcy’s defense likes to gamble as well. It has paid off at times, but teams have been able to hit big plays on them, something Jacksonville has the athleticism to do. But the Titans are also dealing with injuries on the interior. Three starters on the offensive line missed last week’s game. Two will likely still be out for the conference opener.

“I don’t know if there will be a lot of long drives,” Hickingbotham said. “But we see some opportunities if we can execute. That’s the key every time. We’ve got to execute.”

SPORTS STORY >> Important game ahead for Beebe

Leader sports editor

The Beebe football team has to find a way to bounce back from a second-half drubbing by Wynne last week, but motivation shouldn’t be a problem.

After two weeks of stellar second halves and come-from-behind victories, the Badgers were outscored 21-0 in the second half of last Friday’s 35-14 loss to the Yellowjackets.

But there’s no time to be dejected. The Badgers now have their 5A-Central Conference opener on the road in front of them, and it’s a big one right off the bat.

The Badgers travel to Little Rock Christian Academy to take on a Warrior squad that got a lot better with the addition of several juniors that didn’t play as sophomores.

When this year’s juniors were freshmen, LRCA was the only team to beat Beebe, and itwas quarterback Justice Hill that did most of the damage.

He quit football last season, but has returned, and has made an immediate impact.

Beebe coaches knew a slow start against a team as good as Wynne might dig a hole too deep to get out of, and the team responded to the urgency.

“We preached all week about getting off to a better start than we had been,” Beebe coach John Shannon said. “I guess we need to clarify that that doesn’t mean taking the second half off. But really I don’t think that was it. They made some adjustments at halftime and we didn’t handle it well. Really it came down to the fact that they were bigger, stronger and faster than we were. But we also helped them out a little bit with some mistakes that we’re going to go to work on.”

The Badgers shouldn’t have any trouble getting motivated for the Warriors. The players and coaches look to this matchup last season as the one primarily responsible for keeping them out of the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.

Beebe blew three scoring opportunities and lost by 11 points. While the Badgers appear to be much better than last season, so are the Warriors. LRCA is 3-0 and averaging 43.7 points per game. The Warriors have wins over two juggernauts from lower classifications, including 43-28 over Warren and 40-20 over Shiloh Christian. Last week they beat Harrison in a wild one, 48-41.

SC and Warren don’t play a style of ball anything like Beebe, but the Harrison game gives Shannon some encouragement.

“They got in the I formation and ran right at them,” Shannon said of Harrison. “They would also get in the spread and run some of the same plays we run. So it was encouraging from that standpoint. If we can take care of the ball and not turn it over, I feel like we have a chance to keep that high-powered offense off the field. Harrison had about 500 yards on them.”

Much like last year, this game could go a long way towards determining not just playoff seedings, but a playoff berth. The 5A Central has been the strongest conference in recent years, so at least a couple of good teams have been left at home for the postseason. Beebe wants to make sure it’s not them again this year, and it has had this game circled since the end of last season.

“The way it unfolded last year, with the three teams that were above us, we felt like if we had a chance to go to the playoffs, we should’ve beat Christian,” Shannon said. “When you have the ball on the goal line three times and don’t score, it leaves a bad taste. We’ve been looking at this one a long time and we feel like we’re better than we were last year. But they have a better team also, so it’s going to be a big test.”

SPORTS STORY >> Clean it up is Cabot’s goal

Leader sports editor

After what basically amounted to a week off for the starters, the Cabot football team has to turn the intensity back up in a big way as it prepares for the 7A-Central Conference opener at War Memorial Stadium on Friday. The Panther defense has been strong all year, save for one bad half in the first two quarters against El Dorado. This week, however, they have to prepare for the Catholic Rockets and what might be the best running back in the state in junior Samy Johnson.

He has carried for more than 100 yards in all three games this season. He had nearly 200 against Sylvan Hills, and returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

“They look good,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “That running back sure is pretty good. He’s already been back of the week for the state or something like that. Our defense has a big job to do.”

Despite a season record of just 3-8 last year, Catholic lost a lot of close games. They had the Bentonville Tigers down in the first half before Johnson and the starting quarterback suffered game-ending injuries. The Rockets were also the only team that gutted Cabot’s defense up the middle like it did in the Panthers’ 35-10 victory at Panther Stadium.

Johnson carried 25 times for 170 yards in the loss, including a 52-yard touchdown run between the hash marks.

This year’s Catholic team is not as big up front as last year’s, but still bigger than Cabot.

“We’re so little everybody we play is going to be bigger than us,” Malham said. “They’re probably not as big as last year, but they still have that advantage. That’s just something we’re going to have to get used to.”

The Rockets wins were 44-7 over Sylvan Hills, a huge turnaround from the 49-31 loss to the Bears a year ago, and 34-17 against Jacksonville. They lost 28-26 last week at Jonesboro.

“Offensively they’re very good,” Malham said. “They won their first two pretty handily. Defensively I don’t know if they’ve been tested yet. Jonesboro is usually really good on offense, but I think they lost some weapons. “The main thing for us is hanging onto the ball and cutting out the penalties.”

Cabot has taken good care of the ball most of the season. There were no turnovers in the first two games, but against Fair, the starters fumbled it away twice in the first quarter. Penalties have hampered the Panthers more than turnovers in the games against tough competition. Penalties stopped one scoring drive at Pine Bluff. Against El Dorado, the Panthers were twice hampered by penalties after driving deep into Wildcat territory.

“We’ve cost ourselves a few times with penalties,” Malham said. It’s basically the same as always for us; take care of the ball, don’t make mistakes and beat yourselves and you should have a chance to win the ball game in the fourth quarter.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bears brace for stiff test at McClellan

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills will carry its two-game winning streak to southwest Little Rock this Friday to take on the physical McClellan Lions in the 5A-Central Conference opener for both teams. The two teams’ seasons have been almost a mirror image of each other.

Just like Sylvan Hills, the Lions are 2-1. They have two blowout wins, just like Sylvan Hills, and a loss to a 7A-Central team, also like Sylvan Hills.

McClellan stomped Sheridan 51-13 in Week 1, lost 48-30 to defending Class 7A runner up North Little Rock in the second week, and then beat the breaks off of Hall, 63-8 in the home opener last Friday.

Sylvan Hills lost to 7A-Central and 7A state quarterfinalist Catholic High 44-7 in Week 1, then hammered Hot Springs Lakeside and Jacksonville in its more recent games.

The offense was the story against Lakeside. The Bears rolled up over 400 yards of offense in that48-22 win. In the 28-3 victory over Jacksonville, Sylvan Hills didn’t pile up the yardage, but allowed only 92 total yards of offense.

The McClellan Lions present a different set of problems, from their gigantic offensive line to the athleticism on the perimeters, The Lions are talented. They lost major playmakers like Dalvion Childs at quarterback and Pierre Strong at running back, but Bear coach Jim Withrow has some concerns.

“They are huge,” began Withrow. “I don’t know if they have the big-time playmakers they had last year, but they’re definitely physical and they have some weapons. All those guys they have touching the ball look to be 4.5 or better kind of guys. It’s just a typical Maurice Moody coached team. They’re big. They’re physical. They got speed. They play tough on both sides of the ball. It’s going to be a fight that we have to meet.”

McClellan averages 316 pounds across the offensive line. That goes well with the style of ball the team plays, especially with the 220-pound quarterback Bennie Kemp running the offense. He and 200-pounder Tommy Crumpton III will handle most of the totes.

“They get up under center and try to jam it down your throat,” Withrow said. “I think they have a running back playing quarterback, and that bodes well for what they’re doing. I don’t know if they have anybody as good as Strong was, but that Crumpton kid looks like he’s got some serious jets. There’s no doubt it’s a huge game early in the season.”

The 5A Central has, in recent years, earned a reputation for being the toughest in the 5A classification. Pulaski Academy has won the last three state titles.

McClellan has been their foe in one of those, while Sylvan Hills beat the Bruins in every aspect but the scoreboard last year, holding them to 284 total yards of offense.

Beebe has made a recent trip to the state semifinals, while Little Rock Christian was undefeated when vanquished by PA in the semis two seasons ago.

Parkview, this year, is showing signs of vast improvement with the hiring of Brad Bolding and the influx of transfers from nearby schools.

All that makes this week’s conference openers even more important. There will be at least two playoff level teams sitting at home when the postseason begins, and which two that will be will begin to be worked out this week.

“That’s the deal with this conference, man, it’s so tough,” With-row said. “We’ve got be ready this week for what’s coming. This is a big game, even though it’s early.”

The Bear offense has been solid since the loss to Catholic. It was outstanding against Lakeside, and impressive enough against the Titans.

Lakeside plays similarly to McClellan in that, the Rams brought a lot of pressure with stunts and blitzes. Jacksonville relied more on its talented front four to apply pressure while dropping more into coverage.

McClellan has Jacksonville’s talent, combined with Lakeside’s philosophy, at least that’s been the case in the past.

This year’s team hasn’t shown as much pressure, but Sylvan Hills is preparing for it anyway.

“I think it’s just a case of them being young and inexperienced on defense,” Withrow said. “They had a lot of seniors on defense last year. These guys don’t look like much drop off to me. I think he’s giving them a chance to get the feel of things before he turns them loose. So it looks like they’re kind-of pulling the reigns back a little, but we’re preparing for the pressure.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

EDITORIAL >> $123 million for schools

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District is determined to rebuild its aging schools after decades of neglect when the area was part of the Pulaski County Special School District. The school board has approved a new high school and elementary school, and a plan for a new middle school and elementary school has been presented to the school board to be built when the old high school is demolished.

The ambitious building program could cost about $123 million, much of it paid for by the state. Construction of a new $66 million high school, which will open in August 2019, is well underway as is a new $16.5 million Bobby Lester Elementary School, set to open next August. The high school is being built on the site of the old middle school near Hwy. 67/167 off Main Street, while Lester Elementary is under construction on General Samuels Road in front of Tolleson Elementary School near the air base.

According to our senior reporter John Hofheimer, a new $18 million elementary school to replace Pinewood and Dupree would be eligible for state partnership funding for the 2021-23 funding cycle. Also, it would be $5 million cheaper to build a new $23 million middle school than to fix up the existing one at the old North Pulaski High School. That’s according to Charles Stein, the former director of the state Education Department’s transportation and facilities division, who told the school board last week that renovation of the current middle school would cost about $18.8 million. The district would probably pay all the rehabilitation costs, while the district’s share of a new $23 million school – construction costs only – would be about $14 million, or $5 million less than repairs, assuming $9 million in 2019-21 state partnership money.

While technically remodels and renovations – the state calls that “safe, warm and dry” – can qualify for partnership funds, they fall to the bottom of the list and partnership money is generally gone before that, Stein explained.

Stein recommends asking for partnership money for a new middle school in the 2019-21 funding cycle.

Furthermore, he said, the 2017-19 state partnership funds were $250 million and the governor has told the legislature to find ways to cut them. Stein said after the 2019-21 partnership cycle, safe, warm and dry funds may be cut out completely and become a district maintenance-funding problem.

It would be wise for the new district to see additional state funds before other districts line up for state funding. Something tells us surrounding school districts may have similar aspirations.

TOP STORY >> DAR marks Constitution Week

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher made it official as he proclaimed this week Constitution Week.

Members of the local chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution joined him at a ceremony on Friday at city hall.

Fletcher, in his proclamation, said, “Sept. 17 marks the 230th anniversary of the drafting of the Constitution of the United States of America by the Constitutional Convention. It is fitting and proper to officially recognize this magnificent document and its memorable anniversary.”

The mayor called “upon our citizens to reaffirm the ideals the Framers of the Constitution had in 1787.”

There are several important documents in American history, but the Declaration of Independence forged the nation’s identity, and the United States Constitution, which set forth the framework for the federal government that is still in use today.

While Independence Day is a national holiday, not many people know about Constitution Week, an annual commemoration of the living document that upholds and protects the freedoms central to the American way of life. This year, the annual celebration began Sunday.

The Daughters of the American Revolution, known as DAR, initiated the observance in 1955, when the organization petitioned Congress to dedicate Sept. 17-23 of each year to the commemoration of Constitution Week. Congress adopted the resolution, and on Aug. 2, 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law.

The celebration’s goals are to encourage the study of the historical events that led to the framing of the Constitution in September 1787, to inform people that the Constitution is the basis of America’s heritage and the foundation of our way of life and to emphasize citizens’ responsibility to protect, defend and preserve the Constitution.

“DAR has been the foremost advocate for the awareness, promotion and celebration of Constitution Week. This annual observance provides innumerable opportunities for educational initiatives and community outreach, two mission areas of crucial importance to the National Society’s work,” according to the announcement from Junelle Mongno of the Major Jacob Gray chapter of DAR, which is based in Jacksonville.

“By fostering knowledge of and appreciation for the Constitution and the inalienable rights it affords to all Americans, DAR helps to keep alive the memory of the men and women who secured our nation’s independence, whose bravery and sacrifice made possible the liberties we enjoy today,” said Ann Dillon, DAR president general.

“The framers created a Constitution that translated into law the ideals upon which our nation was built. Their vision was so forward thinking that their words still guide us today,” she said.

“No American history education can be complete without a thorough understanding of the impact the Constitution has had on the lives of American citizens past and present,” Dillon added.

DAR is one of the largest patriotic women’s organizations in the world. It has more than 185,000 members in approximately 3,000 chapters across the country and even in foreign countries.

DAR promotes historic preservation, education and patriotism via commemorative events, scholarships and educational initiatives, citizenship programs, service to veterans, meaningful community service and more.

For more information about DAR, visit

TOP STORY >> Flu-shot clinics planned

The Arkansas Department of Health will hold mass flu vaccinations in Lonoke and Cabot.

The Lonoke Health Unit will offer flu shots from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29 at 306 N. Center St. in Lonoke.

The Cabot Health Unit will have flu vaccinations from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20 at 118 S. First St. in Cabot.

People should bring their insurance cards with them. If one does not have insurance or the insurance does not cover flu shots, the vaccine will be available for free.

“We want Lonoke County residents to stay healthy this flu season, and getting a yearly flu vaccination is the best line of protection. We encourage everyone to come to the mass clinic or the local health unit to get their flu shot,” said Milton Garris, Lonoke County Health Unit administrator.

Even though new observations about the flu vaccine continue to be made, experts continue to recommend annual flu vaccinations for children and adults. The flu virus changes from year to year, and this year’s vaccine protects against the flu viruses that are expected to cause the most illness this flu season.

Department of Health state epidemiologist Dr. Dirk Haselow said, “The flu should not be taken lightly. We are encouraging everyone to get a flu shot to protect themselves and their families, because it is hard to predict in advance how severe the flu season is going to be this year.”

People of all ages get the flu. Older adults, young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease, smokers, and people who live in nursing homes are more likely to have serious health problems if they get the flu.

The state Health Department strongly recommends people in those groups get a flu vaccine. It is also recommended that friends, family members and people who provide care to people in these groups also get a vaccine not only to protect themselves but also to decrease the possibility that they might expose the people they love and care for to the flu.

The flu vaccine is safe and does not cause the flu. Some people may have mild soreness and redness near the site of the shot and a low fever or slight headache. There are very few medical reasons to skip the flu vaccine. These include life-threatening allergic reactions to a previous dose of the flu vaccine or an ingredient in the vaccine.

People with allergies to vaccine ingredients can often receive the vaccine safely if it is given in a doctor’s office where they can be monitored.

The flu easily spreads through coughing or sneezing and touching objects, such as a doorknob with the virus on it and then touching one’s nose or mouth. So good hand washing habits are important in preventing the flu.

The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot.