Chamber cheerleading the charter movement | Arkansas Blog

Chamber cheerleading the charter movement

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Propaganda party touted here by the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, which has served for some time as an enabler of messaging about the alleged waste of money that is the Little Rock School District.

It's billed as a "town hall meeting" on school choice — 6 p.m. Oct. 25 at Philander Smith College. They'll screen the charter school propaganda film — "Waiting for Superman" — and have a panel discussion noticeably lacking in opposing points of view on the subject. Participants include: The Walton-financed eStem charter school head; a conservative Heritage Foundation employee who supports vouchers and charters; a member of the Walton-financed faculty at the School for Education Reform in Fayetteville; a leader of one of the Walton-backed KIPP charter schools.

Diane Ravitch, who speaks inconvenient truths to the Billionaire Boys Club about the general lack of results of choice programs? No way. Little Rock School District attorney Chris Heller, who's written a masterful brief (here and also here) on the way the state of Arkansas has failed to uphold its end of the desegregation agreement by poor review of open charter school applications in Pulaski County? Somebody from the local school districts, say even an honest broker like Little Rock Board President Melanie Fox, who could present some balance to the throw-down-on-public-schools movement while readily acknowledging shortcomings? Don't hold your breath.

Perhaps the chamber would invest some of its Little Rock tax dollars in printing copies of Ravitch's "The Myth of Charter Schools" for distribution at the session for the missing counterpoint.

Other sponsors include Arkansans for Education Reform, the Walton-financed lobby for charter schools; the Participant Foundation, a Beverly Hills nonprofit pushing distribution of this film to achieve policy aims, and Philander Smith College. Free copies of "Waiting for Superman" will be distributed. Maybe they could print this Washington Post op-ed taking down "Superman" point by point as a study supplement.

To repeat myself: The Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce is free and welcome to oppose universal health care, workers rights, workers compensation, environmental protection and other progressive policies. It is free to tear down the public school system in favor of a balkanized system rife with haves and have nots. It is free to trash a system that my children and tens of thousands of others attended to their benefit. But I still hate that they do it with my tax dollars.

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