by Max Brantley
But what if John Walton’s disappointment in public schools stems from the possibility that Americans, as a whole, want other kinds of “results” from their public schools? What if what they want, as Jitu Brown says of his own community, is the opportunity to “improve our neighborhood schools” instead of having them replaced by the charters preferred by the Waltons?In Arkansas, the prevailing political dynamic favors the rich people. And the Waltons' paid lobbyist, Gary Newton, spews propaganda hourly in their quest to destroy the Little Rock School District. His latest: More charter schools with predominantly white, upper income students in western Little Rock are good for the Little Rock School District. He also contends the Pulaski County School District should not be allowed to improve its middle school in western Little Rock with a new campus. Competition apparently is OK if the deck is stacked in favor of Newton's charter schools. Not so much if it's a public school district trying to do better.
Meanwhile, as WFF contemplates how to best “soften the ground” for increased school choice, and policy makers ponder the growing impact of philanthropists in education, more communities may have to contend with the reality of schools, public or charter, coming and going based on forces not in their control. Completely lost in the discussion, though, is whether it’s right for the American populace to have its access to education determined by the values and philosophy of a few rich people.