Panel approves another charter school for central LR over superintendent's objection | Arkansas Blog

Panel approves another charter school for central LR over superintendent's objection

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STANDING UP FOR LRSD: Superintendent Mike Poore opposed two charter school applications.
  • STANDING UP FOR LRSD: Superintendent Mike Poore opposed two charter school applications.
The charter school review panel of the state Education Department this afternoon considered the application by the ScholarMade charter school, which aims to eventually enroll 525 students in grades K-9 at the former Mitchell School at  24th and Battery.

The application enjoys support from the Walmart Family Foundation, which bought the building for use by the school.  It also enjoys backing from some familiar figures, including state Reps. Eddie Armstrong and Charles Blake.

Phillis And
LRSD CRITIC: Phillis Anderson, presented ScholarMade charter proposal.
  • LRSD CRITIC: Phillis Anderson, presented ScholarMade charter proposal.
erson, the leader of the school, emphasized low test scores of children in the neighborhood and gaps in area schools, not including the nearby magnet schools, based on what she said.  She acknowledged improvements in the area schools, but said they still lag. (Of course, so, too, do scores of charter schools that enroll comparable levels of poor and minority children.) She also portrayed the Little Rock school as unsafe, based on disciplinary citations. She didn't explain if that meant her school would endeavor to keep troublemakers out of her school. She promised longer school days and more days in school than in conventional public schools.

Little Rock Superintendent Mike Poore opposed as he had the earlier Einstein proposal. He again cited improvement in the district, an oversupply of elementary seats in the neighborhood and the availability in Little Rock of what the charter school proposes to offer. He emphasized the "impact" on the district, if not a strictly legal one.

"This will have a significant impact on our district because of the number of available seats with existing charters and existing public schools."

He resisted criticism of Stephens Elementary. "Stephens moved up in 11 of it 15 tested categories." He said it's the home of a "bank on campus that provides incentives for students. Innovation is happening at Stephens, he said. He noted the charter school anticipates limited transportation, a burden for the most disadvantaged students.

He wondered whether the charter panel understood what was happening in the Little Rock School District to make a decision on whether this was the time for more charter school expansions.

Anderson said her school's students might pull students back from private and home schools, not just the Little Rock district.

The panel had few probing questions. One was about the need for extensive renovation not included in the budget. No problem, the owners, the Walton Foundation affiliate, is paying for all of that.

Anderson said she was committed to collaborating with the public school district. She argued her school would prepare students for Little Rock district high schools. But she also said the school would continue to research adding high school grades. (Of course they will. The Walton attack on LRSD doesn't end at the 9th grade. It's already built a new high school for e-Stem.)

Again, another charter school was approved in a unanimous vote without a mention of objections raised by the Little Rock School District. The cratering of the district continues.

The panel's recommendations are reviewed by the state Board of Education but generally approved.

PS: Conflicts galore in this thing. Phillis Anderson is wife of a Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation executive. Toyce Newton, who voted for the charter, is a former Rockefeller board memeber and grantee. Anderson  is a former employee of the Lighthouse Charter group, which panelist Mike Wilson worked with in establishing a Jackosnville charter school. Charter panelist Naccaman Williams works for the Walton Foundation, supplying money for this school. Unlimited sums in renovation, apparently.

In short: the charter school fix is in. Any charter schools the Waltons want will be approved. And their primary target is busting up the Little Rock School District.




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