by Max Brantley
Sen. Jimmy Jeffress passed modest legislation for charter school accountability in 2012. Among others, it required after the first quarter of the year that charter schools file a report with:
1) The number of applications for enrollment received.
2) The number of applicants with a federally defined disability. (One of the knocks on charter schools is that they must bear far less of the added cost of educating disabled students that real public schools.)
3) The number of applications for enrollment the public charter school denied and an explanation of the reason for each denial.
And how was compliance?
You'll find that several didn't report applications from disabled students, citing the excuse that the information wasn't requested on application forms. Convenient.
More interesting is how several charter schools — including eStem and KIPP schools — dodged complying with the law on the number of and reason applications were rejected. eStem's response for its elementary, middle and high schools was that students are placed on a waiting list until spots become available. What? No one was denied admission? I see. They were merely not allowed to attend for the time being, perhaps the entirety of their school career. This looks disingenuous to me. It is certainly not in keeping with the spirit of the law. The KIPP school in Helena provided an equally disingenuous response. On the near-universal failure to report disabled applicants the KIPP school in Blytheville did reveal the number of students with disabilities it admitted after the selection process.
Several schools' reports, including those from LISA, indicated no student was denied admission.
End-of-year reporting under the Jeffress law will require reports on dropouts, expulsions and test scores.