THE CHARTER school system in Arkansas is working just as planned. For proof, see Friday's paper in which Gentle Reader learned that a couple of charter schools aren't anymore. An Einstein charter school pulled out of an Arkansas project, and another school's charter was revoked because of financial problems.
That's the brilliance of charter schools. When they don't live up to their promise, to their charter, they go away. When was the last time you heard of a traditional public school being shuttered just because it didn't live up to expectations? That is, if it couldn't educate students effectively or efficiently, or if it couldn't do so within a budget?
Not all charter schools are going to work. That's been proven. But charters keep providing examples of what works and what doesn't. And a charter isn't going to fail students generation after generation. The state sees to that.
However, in that very same story about the closing charters, Gentle Reader found what may be confusing news. The Arkansas Board of Education voted 6-0 to hold a hearing on the Friendship Aspire Academy, even though the state's authorizing panel for charter schools already gave its thumbs up.
The paper said the state board's vote "puts some brakes" on the opening of the Friendship charter.
The school's leadership wanted to open a year early for about 160 kindergartners and first graders, sometime this fall. But after opposition from the usual suspects, the state decided to stop the works. Ludicrous.
Let's hope the state Board of Education, at the very least, holds this redundant hearing ASAP, and doesn't push this off till after the school year starts in a few months. Putting the brakes on the Friendship school probably hinders hiring and planning with unnecessary uncertainty.
Background: The original plan was to open the Friendship school in Little Rock in the 2019-20 school year. But school officials thought they could do it all sooner, and the authorization panel, which studies these things, agreed. The school is to open (when it opens) at the former Garland School on West 25th Street. The Little Rock school district sold off the building in 2017.
But new charters are never welcome to the education establishment. Because every kid who attends a charter is one less that attends a traditional public school, and the Little Rock school district loses state money. (Funny, but nobody ever seems to mention that for every kid that attends a charter, that's less money that the local school district has to come up with to educate that student.)
Hear the superintendent of Little Rock's schools, Michael Poore, who addressed the state board last week: "When you talk about a waiver to allow a school to jump in and actually start a full year earlier, that probably deserves a lot deeper thinking than just the issue in front of you today." He also questioned whether the Friendship charter school could adequately prep for opening in terms of financing, enrollment and programming.
Well, the charter authorizing panel thought the school adequately prepared. But maybe that's not really the point. The point might be that slowing down the charter process with more meetings and hearings and talk might provide an opportunity to delay, delay, delay. And any excuse will do. Even if it keeps 160 very young and likely minority kids from the best opportunity at an early education.
Here's a better quote, one from Joe Harris, the CEO for the Friendship Aspire Academy organization: "Waiting another year to open the school is saying there is no sense of urgency about educating children."
Yes, sir, that's exactly what this delay says.
But the state Board of Education can fix it yet. This doesn't have to be a car wreck. It can be a pit stop. The board can hold its hearing, find out what the charter authorizing panel already knows, then approve the school for opening soonest.
We're talking 160 kids here. The loss of their state funding isn't going to break Little Rock's school district.
But the state's decision, either way, might mean the world to those kids.
Editorial on 06/18/2018
Print Headline: Any excuse will do