School truths 

The Walton Family Foundation, abetted by the wealthy Stephens, Hussman, Murphy and Dillard clans, is winning the "school choice" war.

Choice means, eventually, taking public tax money to pay for private school tuition. A major interim step is the charter school, a publicly financed school unaccountable to voters and sometimes run for profit.

With cheerleading from a Walton-financed school at the University of Arkansas, Walton-backed legislators have raised the cap on charter schools and opened the spigot of public money for home schoolers.

A favorite beneficiary of the Waltons is Responsive Education Solutions, a Texas-based management company led by people with a history of religion-influenced thinking. Responsive Ed just won approval for a fourth charter school in Arkansas, the Quest charter school in western Little Rock. It also holds management contracts with three public school districts.

The state Department of Education staff, which approved the Quest application, apparently doesn't review curriculum. Responsive Ed's biology workbook taught creationism, contrary to Arkansas law. In the face of publicity from an investigative article in Slate, the company has pulled the books. No word yet if it has improved its history materials, which Slate also found full of misinformation.

Quest also applied to open its school to draw higher-income white people from the Little Rock School District on Rahling Road in Chenal Valley. A great deal of state Board of Education debate was about the location — in the Pulaski, not the Little Rock, School District — and the cost. Its proximity to Little Rock's Roberts Elementary was seen as a plus.

The Arkansas Times has now discovered through an FOI request that Quest, at the very meeting the Rahling site was approved, was working on relocating the school to near Shackleford and I-430, close by Little Rock's Henderson Middle School. The landlord on Rahling proved unwilling to negotiate a lower price.

A better price is a good argument to move, but it doesn't excuse the failure to tell the state Board of Education that it was planning a dramatically different location than the one being debated.

Charter school backers always claim they are all about accountability. To date, broken promises and failing charter schools have rarely resulted in state consequences. It's time to give the word meaning. Responsive Ed shouldn't be given a rubber stamp by department staff for its new, cheaper location. It should be made to file a new application and explain why it didn't tell the truth.

Speaking of...

  • Walton Family Foundation comes to rescue of new LR charter school

    June 12, 2014
    The Quest charter middle school will open in August in West Little Rock after a rocky regulatory road, thanks, we now know, to some financial help from the Walton Family Foundation, billion-dollar backers of charter school expansion. /more/
  • The Walton dream realized in New Orleans: All charter schools. Or is it a nightmare?

    May 29, 2014
    The conventional public school is dead in New Orleans. Public education has been turned over solely to charter schools. Created equal? Not on your life. They discriminate on the basis of race and class, even school officials admit. /more/
  • Walton Family Foundation announces leader of environmental focus

    May 29, 2014
    The multi-billion-dollar Walton Family Foundation has announced that Dr. Barry Gold will soon join the foundation as leader of its "environmental focus." He's currently director of Marine Conservation at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. /more/
  • The charter school open line

    May 28, 2014
    The reader comment line is open. A final news item: The Florida League of Women Voters has a study ripping charter schools in that state in just about every important aspect. /more/
  • Quest charter school goes back to Rahling Road site

    May 23, 2014
    The Quest charter middle school, set back recently on a new location, will return to the originally approved site on Rahling Road in Chenal Valley. /more/
  • Quest charter school still working on next year

    May 14, 2014
    The proposed Quest charter middle school for west Little Rock was dealt a setback when the state Board of Education denied its proposal for a new location on Hardin Road, but it hasn't given up on trying to find a way to open next year. Meanwhile, the company that will operate the school has provided me some interesting information on the families of nearly 180 children who'd sought admission. /more/
  • The Obama in Arkansas Edition

    May 9, 2014
    President Obama’s visit to Arkansas, the ruling on a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, a PR push for the Keystone pipeline, dark money flooding state political races at all levels, Asa Hutchinson’s thoughts on ending the private option, Frank Broyles getting pushed out at the UA, Johnny Key landing on his feet and Quest Charter School hitting a significant speed bump — all covered on this week's podcast. /more/
  • State Board of Education denies move of Quest charter school

    May 8, 2014
    The state Board of Education today overwhelmingly rejected an application to move the approved Quest charter middle school to a new location on Harding Road, just west of I-430 and Shackleford Road. Testimony included a recitation of the ways representatives of the school have provided misleading or incomplete information to state regulators. A representative of the school said the organizers would now seek to find a location acceptable to all. But it likely will make it difficult for the school, which says it has signed up 180 prospective students, to open by fall. /more/
  • Report: Lack of oversight leads to fraud, abuse in charter school operations

    May 6, 2014
    Don't look for Bill Moyers to be getting any grants from the Walton Family Foundation. His website reports on a new study about harm to taxpayers and school children from poor oversight of charter schools. /more/
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