by Max Brantley
The charter school sham will continue today before the state Board of Education with votes on Little Rock charter applications. The Walton-financed charter school train will continue the dismantling of public school districts in Pulaski County. At the same time, the Waltons' paid emissary on the State Board of Education, Naccaman Williams, will look out for public schools in the Waltons' backyard.
Yesterday, Williams voted for a charter school in North Little Rock, another LISA Academy for which there is no demonstrable need, but which will siphon more students likely to achieve wherever they attend school from the rapidly segregating North Little Rock and Pulaski County school districts. Williams, however, wouldn't allow the LISA crew to set up in Springdale, his back yard. His vote was pivotal on both applications.
North Little Rock citizens should note that Sherry Burrow voted for the new quasi-private school in their city. If it follows the LR pattern, this LISA will be a majority white enclave in a majority black district. Burrow is the wife of Jonesboro developer Bruce Burrow, who hopes to divert more NLR school money for a Tax Increment Finance district to drain a part of Dark Hollow so he can build a taxpayer-subsidized Bass Pro Shops shopping center. It will be further subsidized by millions in city money to build a highway overpass, if Mayor Pat Hays has his way.
Former LR Supt. Roy Brooks, if not on the Walton payroll now almost certain to be soon, may speak at today's application for a new charter school scheduled for the Arkansas Gazette building, where, according to its application, the school will get cut-rate rent from Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman. Based on yesterday's votes, it would appear there's a four-member Board bloc set to approve any charter school in the Little Rock area, no matter how little needed. I'd be skeptical about anything said about the e-STEM charter school. Two weeks ago, the founder said he'd never talked to Roy Brooks. Yesterday, Roy turned up as a consultant to his school.
Question: Which state Board member is closest to an expiring term? Two leave in 2008, one, Tim Knight, who supported the LISA charters, and another, Mary Jane Rebick, who's become a bulldog on accountability. What sort of Board member will replace them? Stooges for Luke Gordy and the Waltons? Or a more even-handed board member? This question will provide a measure of Gov. Mike Beebe come the day.
Copy and paste for D-G coverage.
Two more things on this subject:
1) By approving a charter school in Humphrey, recently consolidated with the DeWitt School District, the board has given a template to small schools statewide to avoid consolidation. Just declare yourself a charter.
2) Would anybody seriously argue that there'd be a slew of charter school applications, maybe any, in Pulaski County if the schools were 90 percent white. When they say it's not about race ...
UPDATE: The board put off a decision on the e-STEM schools until next month because of too many unanswered questions about the school's budget and just what its lease and/or purchase agreement would be on the Gazette Building. (Hussman has offered to sell it to the school for $3 million, and an organization that helps charter schools with facilities expenses [Walton money supports the organization] has said it will kick in some money, but the charter school organizers were only discussing a lease this morning.) As for Brooks' involvement, school founder and UCA professor Michael Scoles told us it started last week. He's consulting on "urban administration" issues.