Benji Hardy is covering the state Board of Education
today. Look for his update on the remarkable decision to allow the Helena-West Helena School District
to receive waivers from a lengthy list of school regulations because they have a local charter school, KIPP, that enjoys such waivers.
Legislation from Rep. Reginald Murdoch
cleared this waiver process, more or less. But it comes absent specific rule-making authority, absent any kind of contractual elements such as those with charter schools and also absent the takeover hammer that the state holds over charter schools (rarely used).
Strong resistance came from Board member Jay Barth and Mireya Reith.
He notes that every district in the state competes with a virtual charter school. Might they all seek universal waivers as Helena did (it even wanted a waiver of the fair dismissal law, but lost on that one request)? Can the board even legally exercise such broad authority?
Barth noted something I've noted myself: The "choice" advocates talk tirelessly and tiresomely of "innovation." The schools don't demonstrate much, however. Elimination of regulation is not innovation, it's just a reduction of accountability. Why have any rules at all? Gov. Asa Hutchinson's
appointees to the state board resisted none of the proposals to end state rule-making oversight during the period I watched.
We have entered the wild west of education in Arkansas. Proclaim yourself a believer in choice and innovation and you have carte blanche. Accountability? That's only for the Little Rock School District, increasingly skimmed of success-prone families by accountability-free charter schools.