by Max Brantley
The morning roundup:
* DOES THE LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICT REALLY NEED THIS DRAMA?: I was too busy yesterday to get around to a tip on something the Democrat-Gazette reported this morning. Little Rock school superintendent finalist, Walter Milton Jr., is heading out the door March 31 at his current job in Springfield, Ill. His tenure has been marked by controversy. The Springfield Journal Register reports that Milton will get a $178,000 buyout. Does Little Rock really need to pay to be the next act? Does a candidate like this say anything about the work of the consultant Little Rock hired to produce the current crop of finalists? Does Dianne Curry, the Board president, really believe you can't believe everything you read in the newspaper? Little Rock hired a smooth-talking gregarious sort for superintendent once before despite past employment drama and buyout history. Remember Hank Williams?
* LITTLE ROCK BOARD APPROVES CHIPOTLE RESTAURANT: KARK reports that only one city director opposed the plan to tear down the old Fausett building on the southwest corner of Markham and University to build a Chipotle restaurant next door to a McDonald's and just down the way from the Chick-fil-A traffic headache. Planners swear the developers will not add to traffic issues there.
* THE CHARTER SCHOOL SCAM: Reuters continues its reporting on the proliferation of charter schools, pushed by billionaires to wreck conventional public schools . They are often little more than quasi-private schools run with public money and little public oversight. The best ones skim more advantaged students and set rules that help move poor students from dysfunctional families out the door. They aren't ladling out any special educational sauce so much as built-in advantages all-comers public schools would love to enjoy. From the latest:
Charters are public schools, funded by taxpayers and widely promoted as open to all. But Reuters has found that across the United States, charters aggressively screen student applicants, assessing their academic records, parental support, disciplinary history, motivation, special needs and even their citizenship, sometimes in violation of state and federal law.
"I didn't get the sense that was what charter schools were all about - we'll pick the students who are the most motivated? Who are going to make our test scores look good?" said Michelle Newman, whose 8-year-old son lost his seat in an Ohio charter school last fall after he did poorly on an admissions test. "It left a bad taste in my mouth."
I concede, as Education Week advances, that everything is not bad about the charter school model. But, conversely, everything is not good. The nuance is lacking when the Billionaire Boys Club in Arkansas demands that charters be advanced at any cost to the rest of the education system and without question.
But there is that discipline issue, also from Education Week:
As the number of charter schools continues to grow, one facet of their autonomy—the ability to set and enforce independent disciplinary standards—has raised difficult questions about whether those schools are pushing out students who pose behavior or academic challenges and how their policies affect regular public schools.
..."At the beginning of the charter school movement, there were all these promises that it'd do everything better than public schools with the same kids," said Amy Stuart Wells, a professor of sociology at Teachers College, Columbia University. But the regulatory leeway afforded to charters comes at a cost, she argued: "I don't think they're using their autonomy for what they said they'd be doing with it."
* FAREWELL TO A FRIEND: Lynda Dixon sends word of the death of a friend and, before his illness, frequent blog contributor, Charles Eddie Smith. The former Stuttgart farmer and Clinton administration staffer signed his own name and expressed himself equally fearlessly.