by Max Brantley
Charter schools work, the D-G declaimed editorially Sunday. If, by "work," you mean they succeed in enrolling students, why, yes, they work. If you mean they work by matching or bettering conventional public schools, well, the record is mixed, according to national studies. Some do, some don't. Sort of like regular public schools. Where they work, parental involvement seems an important factor, something not universally replicated in the schools. Charter schools can weed out the hard cases and the unmotivated by a variety of means, ranging from extended days and school weeks to parental responsibilities that many are unable or unwilling to assume, such as providing transportation, showing up for teacher meetings, etc.
Charters also create hundreds of new little school districts, each with its own superintendent and administrative structure. It's not every efficient, even in the best of cases. In the worst?
Well, perhaps we'll want to sit in on the state Board of Education Dec. 8. On the agenda is an item to consider whether to modify the charter of Dreamland Academy of Performing and Communication Arts in Little Rock, perhaps even revoke it. Reason: Dreamland "allegedly failed to satisfy generally accepted accounting standards of fiscal management." There are apparently questions about the school's debt load and an expedited review of its circumstances is underway.
The school aims to serve students with great academic and behavioral needs, a tough assignment. Its problems reflect only on itself and not the entire charter school movement (though the charter people want you to view other public schools in that fashion -- if one fails, they all must be sorry). But it does demonstrate, again, that a noble idea and the word "charter" are no guarantees of success.
This link to the state Board agenda includes several pages on Dreamland at the very end.