by Max Brantley
A key speaker will be one of the subsidized faculty members the Waltons have installed at the so-called school of education "reform" at Walton University in Fayetteville. Jeb Bush will lend this support for doing in Arkansas what's been done in Florida (scandal after scandal in charter schools and scant education progress, to name two).
But enough of my usual.
I noticed that Jim Cooper of Melbourne, chairman of the state Board of Education, is on the panel. The billionaires want to jerk control of charter school approval and regulation from the hands of the state board and put it in the hands of a board controlled by appointees of the Republican (read bilionaires') controlled Arkansas Legislature.
Dioes his presence mean Cooper supports the legislation? I've said before that he and other current members of that board, including numerous charter school advocates, have done a fair and tough job in recent years in approving some charter schools and rejecting others. The rejections seem to stick in the billionaires' craw, however.
I talked to Cooper this morning.
He said he has some conflicts on Tuesday and he said he also had concerns about appearing on the panel if it were interpreted as a political statement. He said he'd agreed only to appear as an "objective" participant to talk about the board's work in the past and future. He said he wasn't prepared to speak for or against any of the billionaires' school package — easier approval of charter schools, state construction funding for charter schools, virtually unlimited transfers between school districts and perhaps easing of teacher licensure rules, among others.
Does Cooper think the Board is doing a good job now in regulation of charter schools?
"I think they are doing a good job. Obviously, we may have made mistakes through the years. There may have been some that got through that shouldn't have, but many were turned down and rightfully so."
He added that it had been time-consuming and hard work for the board. But, "I feel pretty comfortable with the way I've voted through the years."
He said he didn't want to compromise his objectivity as board chairman by participation next week. "I may have to think hard about that the next few days."
UPDATE: I also asked Rep. James McLean, a Democrat, if his participation constituted an endorsement of the billionaires' agenda:
No sir. I am interested in listening to everybody and finding out as much as I can about all viewpoints
A+ Arkansas announced today it will host an Education Rally and Summit in conjunction with National School Choice Week, on Tuesday, January 29, 2013, in Little Rock. The Rally will begin at 9:15 a.m. at the Arkansas State Capitol Rotunda and will feature keynote speaker Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida from 1999-2007 and chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, as well as Mr. Jim Walton, Chairman and CEO of Arvest Bank Group Inc.
Immediately following the Rally at 11:30 a.m., A+ Arkansas will host an Education Summit at the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Little Rock. This event includes a free lunch for those who RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org and panel discussions by teachers, administrators, business leaders, educational experts and policymakers.
Dr. Patrick J. Wolf is professor and 21st Century Endowed Chair in School Choice in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions. Wolf will join parents, educators, business leaders and policymakers to discuss the education crisis facing Arkansas. Attendees will also have the opportunity to play an active role in the discussion during Q&A sessions throughout the summit.
"The research record is strong: parental school choice improves outcomes for students, parents, and the broader community,” Wolf stated.
Previously, Wolf taught at Georgetown and Columbia University. As principal investigator of the School Choice Demonstration Project, he is leading the impact evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program through a contract with the U.S. Department of Education (subcontract with Westat) and is overseeing a national research team conducting an independent longitudinal multi-method evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.
Other Speakers include:
Walter Hussman- Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of WEHCO Media, Inc.
Bill Dillard- CEO Dillards
John Bacon- Chief Executive Officer, eStem Public Charter Schools
Michele Linch- Executive Director Arkansas State Teachers Association
Jim Cooper- Chairman of the State Board of Education
Leslie Hiner- Vice President of Programs & State Relations at Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice
Arkansas State Representative Mark Biviano (R)
Arkansas State Representative James McLean (D)
Arkansas State Senator Johnny Key (R)
Georgia State Representative Alisha Morgan (D)
T. Willard Fair- Chief Executive Officer of the Urban League of Greater Miami, Inc.
Angela F. Shirey- Teach For America Director of Development
Virginia Walden Ford- Executive Director of Arkansas Parent Network
Luke Gordy — Executive Director of the Arkansans for Education Reform Foundation