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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 An Einstein charter school pulled out of an Arkansas project, and another school's charter was revoked because of financial problems.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

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  • JakeTidmore
    June 18, 2018 at 9:19 a.m.

    And yet some academically failing charter schools still are here. There's a notable one in Little Rock that keeps getting a free pass from State Board of Education despite nearly a decade of failure. The most common reason for shutting down charters is that they are not fiscally sound.
    I wonder if the gentle, but blindered editor would care to comment on the study of 750 charter schools which showed that they encourage segregation in the local community and still are predominant white enclaves for higher income families.
    Here's link to report:
    ht tp://hechingerreport.or g/nearly-750-charter-schools-are-whiter-than-the-nearby-district-schools/
    Fair & balanced?? Neither charter schools or this editorial fit that definition.

  • drs01
    June 18, 2018 at 12:48 p.m.

    I wonder how many of the LRSD's schools are "academically failing" and are still here? We know they have not been hurting for money (fiscally sound) thanks to the $1 billion in tax dollars given to them (with unfettered oversight).
    If we ever expect our city to become what so many want it to be, then we must have alternatives to the currently failing traditional public schools. Charters are an alternative to packing up and moving to the surrounding cities; and many of those that do are the type of young, family professionals we need to retain or attract. Not everyone who lives here can afford the high cost of private schools.
    I'm sure Tidmore's facts have some merit, but I know my grandchildren are in a charter that is minority white. So I guess there are exceptions. I believe the charters provide the needed alternatives and operate without racial inequities.

  • hah406
    June 18, 2018 at 1:07 p.m.

    drs01, the charter schools do in some cases provide excellent needed alternatives. eSTEM being the finest example. However, there are many very successful schools in the LRSD as well, going to show that you can't lump them all together. I will point out that there are racial inequities in the charter system. A couple of years ago one prominent charter school system was caught sending targeted advertising only to upper class white neighborhoods in WLR, while not advertising at all south of I-630 and east of I-430, which is a majority black area.