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The charter school push

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The Walton Foundation-financed push to dramatically increase the number of charter schools in Arkansas didn’t make much headway this year.

Of 20 groups that originally expressed interest last year in opening charter schools, 11 submitted applications to the state Board of Education.

As of the board’s last meeting, on Jan. 17, two had been approved, seven had been rejected, and action on the remaining two was put off until a later meeting.

Three of those applications were from groups wanting to open charter schools in Little Rock. Two — Covenant Keepers Academy and Learning for Life Academy — were rejected, and the board tabled a vote on the third, Dreamland Academy of Performing and Communication Arts, because they wanted more detailed information about the school’s budget, governing board, location and recruitment process. Board members also encouraged the Covenant Keepers applicants to re-apply next year, saying the school’s concept — extended school days and a partnership with Pulaski Technical College that would have allowed students to earn an associate’s degree while attending the charter school — was worthwhile.

The two schools that the board has approved are Hope Academy in Pine Bluff and the Northwest Academy of Fine Arts in Rogers.

Proctor said she was encouraged by the groups who submitted applications.

“Of the 11 we brought forward, seven were headed by African-American groups,” she said. “Ten of the 11 would have been located in the Delta or urban areas of Little Rock.”

Proctor said she was surprised that in some cases, the board of education said the educational need for the schools wasn’t demonstrated.

“When it’s Mississippi County or Lee County I don’t know how else to demonstrate the need,” she said.

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