State Board of Education removes distress labels, votes further review of WLR charter school | Arkansas Blog

Monday, December 16, 2013

State Board of Education removes distress labels, votes further review of WLR charter school

Posted By on Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 11:12 AM

CHARTER SCHOOL BACKER: Edwin Strickland said his organization had already dealt with questions raised today about promises of student body makeup of proposed WLR charter school.
  • CHARTER SCHOOL BACKER: Edwin Strickland said his organization had already dealt with questions raised today about promises of student body makeup of proposed WLR charter school.
The state Board of Education voted without discussion this morning to remove Alpena, Brinkley, Hartford and Hermitage school districts from fiscal distress.

Still to come are appeals of approval and denial of charter school applications by the new in-department charter school review committee. The lead issue likely will be the Little Rock School District's opposition to approval of two charter schools in Little Rock, including the Quest middle school for an upscale white neighborhood of Little Rock that seems likely to fall short of the school's projection that it would primarily serve students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. The Texas charter school operator chosen to run the school — backed by Walton-financed charter school lobbyist Gary Newton — has also been criticized in a national study for its academic results elsewhere in the country. None of this bothered the departmental reviewers. Parents backing the Quest school don't want to go to nearby Little Rock district schools, which lends a neighborhood school imperative to the charter/real public school debate. There are demonstrably fine middle and senior high schools in Little Rock. Advocates of Quest seem to argue, as much as anything, that they should be able to get money for a neighborhood school if they don't like the ones available.

One parent who's talked to me about her support of Quest acknowledges Superintendent Dexter Suggs plan to convert Forest Heights into a STEM school hoped to be a magnet for ambitious students. But she said there was uncertainty about how many seats would be available at that school. That, of course, is a situation that applies to charter schools, which theoretically must grant admission through a lottery. Board Chair Brenda Gullett noted today that she wished the Education Department did some random checking of the use of lottery applications by charter schools because of some reports that there had been "massaging" of the process in some cases. A department employee said it had received few complaints about lottery selection.

The Little Rock School District reiterated opposition to two charter school applications because they failed to demonstrate they'd address a need not being met or, in the case of the Exalt Academy approved as a K-8 school in 
Southwest Little Rock, that it had not demonstrated sufficient support of economic viability. The Exalt plan is based on full enrollment at opening and future growth.

The Board voted not to review the Exalt charter school application. Board member Diane Zook, a dedicated charter school backer who's helped in the organization of the Quest charter school, tried to argue that since Little Rock had agreeed to drop a federal legal court challenge of the segregative effects of state approval of open enrollment charter schools that the application should be approved. Board member Jay Barth, who voted to approve the Exalt charter, said there should be no linkage between those issues. Of course Barth is right.

In turning to the Quest school, Ellen Smith, an attorney for Little Rock noted that Quest now thinks it will hit a 50 percent poor student body, after originally estimating it at 78 percent. The district thinks the reach of poor children, because of the neighborhood and transportation issues, is exaggerated. Little Rock also says the application hasn't demonstrated it will deliver the promised curriculum. It noted, too, that Newton had admitted the school was aimed at attracting affluent students out of the school district.

Edwin Strickland, a spokesman for Responsive Education Solutions, the private corporation that would run the Quest school, said all Little Rock's questions had been dealt with at the authorization panel level. Sam Jones, an attorney for the Pulaski County School District, also appeared to speak against the application. He, too, questioned the ability of the school to deliver a significant enrollment of poor and minority children because of lack of transportation budget. Their promise can't be reconciled with demographics of the neighborhood, he said. "If they can demonstrate that here today, more power to them."

Zook, who contributed financially to the Quest effort, questioned whether the board should consider race or economics at all, which prompted a cheer from the audience. Vicki Saviers, a founder of the eStem charter school and long-time charter backer, praised the extensive presentation Quest made before the charter authorizing panel. She opposed a review. Zook seconded her motion not to review it.

Board member Sam Ledbetter said a review by the authorization panel shouldn't control the board. He said he wanted to hear more about the merits because the state has experienced before unfulfilled promises to recruit needy students. The A Plus Charter in Maumelle is a prime example. Ledbetter said Quest set the standard and he wanted to drill down into how they thought that would be the model of their school. Board Chair Brenda Gullett said she, too, wanted to know more about how the student body would be composed and how the entrance lottery would be conducted. Member Jay Barth said he wanted more information on how they plan to meet budget requirements and also about the school's impact on the Little Rock and Pulaski districts at a critical time for the two.

Saviers' motion not to review the decision failed on a show of hands. Barth then moved for a review and his motion was approved by the board. I thought I heard that six votes were cast, but a Quest charter school backer in the room said the vote was 5-2. The board has nine members.

Tags: , , , , , ,



Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Stu Soffer off state Election Commission

    Chris Burks, attorney for the Arkansas Democratic Party, says Jefferson Circuit Judge Phillip Green ruled today that Stu Soffer, a White Hall Republican, couldn't serve on both the Jefferson County and state election commissions.
    • Mar 23, 2018
  • State will appeal Griffen decision on medical marijuana permits

    The state of Arkansas served notice today that it would ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to review Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen's order this declaring the award of five medical marijuana cultivation permits null and void.
    • Mar 23, 2018
  • Thank goodness: Friday

    The open line and today's video headlines.
    • Mar 23, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Deputy killed, police chief wounded in Sebastian County. Suspect in custody

    40/29 TV reports that two law officers were shot about 7 a.m. today near Hackett in Sebastian County and at mid-afternoon came word that one of them had died. Later in the day a suspect was taken into custody in the shooting.
    • Aug 10, 2016
  • The LR chamber does the public's business. Is it accountable? Blue Hog on the case.

    Matt Campbell, lawyer and Blue Hog Report blogger, has sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Jay Chessir, director of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Mayor Mark Stodola related to the publicity stunt yesterday  built around withdrawing from the mayor's rash pronouncement that the city would seek an Amazon HQ2 project even though the city  didn't meet the company's criteria.
    • Oct 20, 2017
  • 'Million-Dollar Thursday': A visit to Sherwood's hot check court

    We take a visit to the weekly hot check court in Sherwood District Court, the subject of a recent civil rights lawsuit filed by ACLU Arkansas and others, who say the system there results in a modern-day debtor's prison
    • Aug 25, 2016

Most Shared

Most Viewed

  • March for Our Lives includes Arkansas events

    They're predicting one of the largest marches ever Saturday in Washington, the March For Our Lives against gun violence. Sibling marches, hundreds of them, are planned around the country, including Bentonville and Little Rock.
  • Missing State Hospital patient provided contraband

    Several news outlets, including the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, have reported that missing State Hospital patient Cory Chapin had been provided contraband — including a cell phone and vaping device — and that a psychological examiner he left with, Michelle Messer, had been questioned about it.This confirms a telephone report we received from another hospital patient who reported on this and other favors Chapin had bragged about.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Arkansas unemployment rises

    • No numbers for youth unemployment in the report. I wonder what that percentage might be.

    • on March 23, 2018
  • Re: Stu Soffer off state Election Commission

    • Name calling is unbecoming. It detracts from civil discourse. Discourse doesn't always have to be…

    • on March 23, 2018
  • Re: Thank goodness: Friday

    • Happy Birthday, Silver. Here's to aging well along a continuing orbital path.

    • on March 23, 2018

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation