Arkansas Friends,

The race for the US Senate seat held by Mark Pryor is heating up with both the Pryor camp and Cotton camp launching attacks. As you endure the “season of negativity” please be aware of Tom Cotton’s position on public schools in Arkansas. He wrote to me and made this statement:

“School voucher programs provide a wide variety of options for parents, especially in communities with poor performing schools, and save taxpayer money at the same time. The state currently pays school districts $6,267 a year per student. This expense would be unnecessary if the parents’ choose to send their children to a private school. While you may take exception to my view, I believe that choice, competition, and freedom will help provide needed reforms to our public schools, as it does in free markets.”

This is a scary position, in my view. He chooses to abolish public education, a state responsibility, and replace it with private schools. I admit I am biased, having spent my entire working life in public education, but I believe Tom Cotton’s view of public education is dangerously irresponsible. Public schools are tasked to take all students, regardless of background, motivation, or preparation and educate them. To think public schools can operate as free market systems indicates a real disconnect with reality.

Consider carefully the ramifications of his position.

In the interest of balance, this was Senator Pryor’s response to the same issue Mr. Cotton responded to:

“During my time in the Senate, I have opposed federally funded vouchers for private schools. While some of our public schools are struggling to provide an adequate and equitable education to all students, the answer to our challenges in public education is not to divert critical funding to private alternatives. While many families choose private schools for their children, for many in the United States, public school is the only feasible option. I remain a steadfast supporter of public education in Arkansas and the rest of the country.”

Frank Ferguson is an educator from Monticello.

Tom Cotton’s Letter to Ferguson: