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Strong families make strong communities, strong communities a strong state, and strong states an ever stronger Union of these United States of America. This chain has been well known at least since Confucius' time. And just as well known should be the ancient observation that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The whole pattern begins with a family's rise and could end with its fall.

Another long-ago philosopher given to tracing cause and effect in human affairs--Moses Maimonides--said the highest degree of charity was practiced by those who freed the recipients to help themselves by establishing their own businesses and institutions. Like charter schools, for outstanding example to emulate--or beware. It all depends on the state of evolution or devolution you happen to catch.

Happily, we here in Arkansas, not to mention points well beyond, have caught the Walton Family Foundation in one of its most flourishing stages. Its latest gift to the people of Arkansas and the rest of the country is to be the creation of not one but two separate funds designed to offer low-interest loans to charter schools. By providing funds for the renovation or construction of school buildings, the Walton Family Foundation hopes to allow the people running charter schools to focus less on facilities and more on broadening the minds of young people who will be studying inside them.

To quote Alice Walton of the family's foundation: "Big challenges require bold solutions. This effort will allow resources that were spent on facilities to be directed back into the classrooms, back to the teachers and back to where it should be-- with students."​ Instead of reducing educators to building managers.

Too many educational leaders, says Marc Sternberg of the Walton Family Foundation, are "working too hard" to find affordable buildings for their schools. Instead of furnishing their students' minds with knowledge and the skills to use it to good purpose. "The spirit of this effort," Mr. Sternberg says, "is to make it easier for educators to do what they should be doing, spending time on teaching and learning and getting them out of the work of facilities. We're just making the path easier to finding an affordable plan for a high-quality school to have a home."​

​At present more than 7,000 charter schools across the country account for almost 3.2 million of the country's kids. That's according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which keeps up with these things. Almost a fifth of these charter schools have delayed their opening days because they lack funds.

These new lending programs, says Mr. Sternberg, will help finance 18,000 places in the country's charter schools this decade. Those seats, he adds, will be in "communities that need more good options for families." But it's about more than just seat creation, he adds. "It's about making it possible for schools to spend less money to finance their buildings and to spend more on the work done inside their buildings . . . paying for teachers, and after-school programming, and professional development and all of the things we know that are so important to school success."

​Teachers and administrators have better things to do--like educate their students--than worry about the state of their school buildings. Why not relieve them of that burden, or at least ease it? "The schools are permanent, so their finances should be, too," says Anand Kesavan, CEO of the Charter Impact Fund. The ​​​aim of the Charter Impact Fund, he adds, will be to lend money to the best-performing charter schools, and a process will be established to check out charter schools and find those that enable those that have the greatest effect on their students' growth and development to expand.

Some of us can hardly wait for this new program to take flight, continuing a record of development that promises better times for America's students, teachers and administrators. We'll be among those watching for continued progress. ​

Editorial on 04/16/2018

Print Headline: That's thinking ahead

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