by Max Brantley
You can read here a letter the Little Rock School District sent to the state Education Department asking it to withhold approval of further open-enrollment charter schools in Pulaski County until impact on school desegregation has been evaluated. The letter, signed by Board president Dianne Curry, cited two primary reasons for the request:
First, because the open enrollment schools don't provide transportation, they create a barrier for poor children to attend and tend to segregate them into schools full of poor children. Education research indicates, the letter said, that high-poverty schools do not provide an equal, or even adequate, education.
Second, students who choose to attend open enrollment charter schools, like students who choose magnet schools, tend to outperform their peers on standardized tests. Even if these students qualify for free or reduced price meals, their parents are, on average, more educated, they have higher aspirations for their children, and they are more likely to help their children at home and to volunteer at school than parents of students who qualify for free and reduced price meals. ... [Cite omitted.] Traditional public schools suffer from the loss of these parents who are educated and involved and can be a potent force for change. Moreover, the loss of these relatively higher performing children will make it more difficult for their former schools to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind, further stigmatizing these schools and making it more difficult for them to attract middle-class students.
Individual charter applicants have always said their schools would have little impact on the public school districts, the letter said. But this ignores the cumulative impact of the growing charter enrollment and the risk of a growing concentration of high poverty schools.
Moreover, the letter notes that the state's own 2006-07 evaluation that found, despite promises to the contrary, charter schools have contributed little by way of innovative teaching. They've mostly been used as a way to negate laws intended to ensure quality teachers and to evade such things as the Teacher Fair Dismissal Law. The public school districts are unable to hire uncertified teachers and ignore the law, putting them at a competitive disadvantage, the letter said.