The end of public education as we knew it in Arkansas | Arkansas Blog

The end of public education as we knew it in Arkansas

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TWEETING: Sen. Joyce Elliott's commentary on state Board of Education meeting yesterday. That bottom Tweet is likely a gig at Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, who enjoys the high-achieving Forest Park Elementary for his own children.
  • TWEETING: Sen. Joyce Elliott's commentary on state Board of Education meeting yesterday. That bottom Tweet is likely a gig at Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, who enjoys the high-achieving Forest Park Elementary for his own children.
Benji Hardy did a fine job covering the marathon state Board of Education meeting last night which ended in the foregone conclusion that the Walton Family Foundation vision for education would prevail — the board would allow expansion of the eStem and LISA Academy charter schools into independent, multi-campus school districts leaching more affluent students from the Little Rock School District.

A few additional comments:

* It was a political dog-and-pony show. How did a gang of Republican legislators who don't live in Little Rock and have barely a clue about the schools here get at the top of the agenda to rah-rah the Walton plan? For some high indignation about this, see Sen. Joyce Elliott's Twitter feed.

* The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this morning published all the available state standardized test scores in the three Pulaski County school districts and the major charter schools. 

Funny thing. Despite having far more poor, minority, special ed and non-English students (facts that made the D-G comparison misleadingly unfair to begin with) the Little Rock School District bested eStem students in seven of the 14 categories in which scores could be compared — third grade reading, fifth grade reading, fifth grade math, sixth grade reading, 10th grade reading, 10th grade algebra and 10th grade geometry. Where's the evidence that eStem is doing a better job, particularly with similar student populations, as Republican legislators from Northwest Arkansas take as an article of faith? The state Education Department made no attempt to delve into data that would illuminate this vital issue.

* The vote will tee up John Walker to refile a request in federal court for an injunction to halt the expansion as the latest in 70 years-plus of the white business establishment and government in Little Rock and Arkansas promoting segregation — racial and economic. Judge Price Marshall ruled that Walker's first request was premature. It's now mature.

* About my scare headline. As Benji noted: The most telling decision the state Board made last night was to renew the charter for Covenant Keepers. It has failed — by the legal standard of 50 percent proficiency on standardized tests — for the entirety of its existence. But they mean well, the experts in the state Education Department decided, and they should be allowed to continue on. These same experts found that the failure of six schools in Little Rock to meet proficiency (sometimes barely) — while 42 Little Rock schools WERE proficient — was sufficient ground to fire the Little Rock School Board and let the state take over.

In short: Being a a charter school means never having to say you are sorry. Legislators and people like Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin  and City Director Lance Hines (who represents charterlandia in West Little Rock) believe that if you merely utter the words "charter" and "choice" you have established superiority. Don't confuse them with facts. The state regulatory structure is pointless. We might as well join Ohio and Florida — to name a couple of states where shady charter operators have run wild — and open the state treasury to anyone with charter in their name. 

If federal lawsuits don't stop the manifest destiny of eStem and LISA and Covenant Keepers and whoever is the next charter-come-lately, Little Rock Superintendent Baker Kurrus' prediction will come true. An isolated group of the hardest cases will be left in the Little Rock School District. Then the Waltons can come in and carve them up for some private management corporations as they'd intended to do with legislation in 2015. See Memphis. (It's not a pretty sight.)

A word to every other school district in Arkansas: Someday they'll be coming for you.


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