Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Senate committee to hear school accountability bills today

Posted By on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 8:12 AM

click to enlarge SEN. JOYCE ELLIOTT: Pushing for school transparency. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • SEN. JOYCE ELLIOTT: Pushing for school transparency.

The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to hear bills this morning requiring the same level of transparency for all schools that receive tax dollars that real public schools must meet.

If recent history is a good indicator, the outlook isn't bright. State Education Commissioner Johnny Key last night successfully fought a bill to halt new charter school creation in school districts under state control — a common-sense measure to stop bleeding in districts that might, as in Little Rock, be serving the vast majority of students very well. Key wants to open more state-supported charter schools in a district where he's forced closure of schools to save money. Make sense to you?

Key is also the architect of the bill to require public school districts to turn over empty buildings to charter schools on  unfavorable terms.

Key also has supported bills to send public money to private schools, even unaccredited schools with no proven track record of performance or services.

The message is that charter and private schools are somehow special (no matter how poorly their students perform).

Sen. Joyce Elliott proposes some simple fairness:

* SB710 requires any school that receives public dollars to follow open meetings laws where the public will have the right to notice of governing meetings, the right to attend those meetings and the right to speak at them.

* SB712 requires ANY school that receives public dollars to follow Arkansas Freedom of Information laws so the public can access information about how their tax dollars are used and what impact they are having.

Arkansas Citizens First Congress writes:

Traditional public schools are subject to the freedom of information and public meetings laws that any typical public use of tax dollars requires. Community members get advance notice of school board meetings and attend them, they have the right to voice their concerns, and they have the right to information on how the school operates like budgets, school improvement plans, and other policies.

Arkansas started funding private corporations a few years ago to start running public charter schools, but these charter schools don't have to report how they operate and how they spend those dollars. The public — even parents at those schools — do not have the legal right to know when the school’s board meets, who sits on those boards, or what groups they subcontract operations to. The public and parents at those schools do not have the legal right to access information on school policies or uses of tax dollars, and they do not even have the right to have their concerns expressed to charter school officials.

In the last 2 years, Arkansas started an expanding voucher program that gives public tax dollars to private schools through the Succeed Scholarship Program. Public taxpayers again have no right to information on those schools use of tax dollars, demographic data on the students served, or any other aspect of their operations.
I think I know how this rodeo turns out.

UPDATE: The Senate committee voted the accountability bills down with little discussion.

And Johnny Key will shortly be asking the democratically unrepresented voters of the Little Rock District for a half-billion in additional taxes for schools that he — not they — control and that's he's intent on plundering with privately run charter operations.

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