“Report says LR college misused federal funds.” That is the front-page headline in the Democrat-Gazette on Sunday, May 6, 2018.
An accounting firm reviewed the books of Arkansas Baptist College, a private religious college in Little Rock.
“$475,000 in Title III money — federal grants meant to establish or improve academics, facilities and endowments — had been improperly spent. It also says the college possibly owed the [U.S.] Education Department more than $500,000 it spent in Title IV money, which is student financial aid.”[i]
Why did we underline the words “student financial aid”?
Less than a year ago Governor Asa Hutchinson gave Arkansas Baptist College $80,000 for … student financial support.
It is bad enough that the Governor gave away your tax dollars to a private entity, but it gets worse. He threw your money into the bottomless abyss of a private entity that misused federal funds and that is in deep financial trouble.
At the same time Hutchinson gave away your tax dollars to Arkansas Baptist College, he also gave away your tax dollars to two more private colleges – Philander Smith College ($55,000) and Shorter College ($15,000).
We are reminded of the debacle of Ecclesia College.
No, we are not talking about the bribery that will send former public officials to prison. And no, we are not insinuating wrong-doing by the Governor concerning Arkansas Baptist College. (His reward was political good will with the colleges and their supporters.)
We are reminded of Ecclesia College because the college and Arkansas Baptist College are examples of: (1) It being too easy to give away taxpayer dollars; (2) Diversion of public funds to a private entity; and (3) Wasting money on a financially troubled entity at that.
Regarding Ecclesia College, legislators directed hundreds of thousands of dollars of your money to the college. Yet, when the Walton Family Foundation looked at the college, the foundation declined to donate because it doubted the financial viability of the college.[ii]
To give away your money the Governor merely runs the expenditure passed a friendly committee of eight legislators. Why would the eight legislators stand in the way when they know it is “the Governor’s money.” …. And they never have.
Diverting your tax dollars to give to a private entity is bad policy for any governor let alone one running as a Republican.
The legislative review of the governor’s discretionary fund is a charade. It is a charade that cannot be fixed by adding more legislators to the committee. The only way to fix the problem is to take away the funds from the Governor and have the full legislature decide where to spend the money by law.
Even if you don’t mind Governor Hutchinson giving away your money willy-nilly to private entities, it was poor judgment on his part to not check whether Arkansas Baptist College was financially troubled. Actually, it had been known for years that the college had financial problems and had missed payroll before, yet the Governor gave them your money anyway.[iii]
What is more maddening …. these gifts (of your money) are supposedly emergency expenditures from emergency funds.
Tell the politicians to end the Governor’s discretionary fund fiasco and pass laws to make sure emergency funds can only be used for real emergencies.