State panel approves another Walton-backed charter school in Little Rock | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, August 17, 2017

State panel approves another Walton-backed charter school in Little Rock

Posted By on Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 10:29 AM

click to enlarge 2501 STATE: Mentioned as potential charter school site.
  • 2501 STATE: Mentioned as potential charter school site.
The state charter school advisory panel, which has already this week approved two Walton Family Foundation-backed charter schools that will add more than 1,1000 school seats in the Little Rock School District, approved nother today.

The Friendship private school management corporation, with schools in Baton Rouge, Washington and Baltimore, wants to open a K-5 school that will eventually hold 600 students. As with other applications, it notes low scores for some students in the Litle Rock School District. None of these applications offer proof that they can do better, only the promise that they will.

I can't recall the Waltons ever losing a charter school fight before the state Board of Education, the final arbiter, and I doubt this application will be any different, particularly with its connection to charter school warrior Michelle Rhee.

The only mystery is location. The application says it is to be in the Little Rock district and uses scores at Stephens Elementary in the central city as a reason for its need. But the four potential locations listed include two North Little Rock schools, Lynch Drive and Rose City, which were vacant when sold to the real estate developer Terra Forma. Also listed are the Garland school, owned by a Walton affiliate and identified Tuesday as the site of a K-8 charter school approved that day, and the former Joshua Enterprises building at 2501 State, now owned by real estate developer Haybar.

= At the meeting this morning, a spokesman for the school said a site still had not been identified but t was focusing on "Southwest Little Rock." He said the school aimed to serve ZIP codes 72204, 72209 and 72211. In a further comment, a spokesman said they still hoped to find a former school for use. Location is important in that they are using Stephens as a whipping boy and two schools have already been approved this week in that general area.

The Little Rock School District, under control of the state Education Department, is improving across the board and has an overabundance of school seats in the central city. These three new Walton-backed schools together, two in the central city and perhaps this one as well, will eventually take as many as 1,700 students away. If the past is a measure, many of them will be children who are NOT failing in the Little Rock School District. Disproportionately left behind are the poorest students. That the manager of the district, Education Commissioner Johnny Key, isn't fighting these incursions, but supporting them, tells you everything you need to know about his aims on the future of the Little Rock School District. It does not appear to include a return to the local autonomy enjoyed by every other public school district in Arkansas.

The charter panel did reject a proposal yesterday for a charter high school in Southwest Little Rock It did not enjoy an endorsement from the Walton Family Foundation. It was not a Friendship school.

Friendship also has an application today for a K-5 charter school in Pine Bluff. It, too was approved in a similar unanimous vote.

Friendship tidbit: The time it had to scrap plans to use in Washington online courses provided by Jerry Falwell's Liberty University because of objections to, for example, using a "biblical perspective" to teach speech writing.

Little Rock Superintendent Michael Poore submitted a  written statement requesting a delay in approval of the charter. He asked for more time for the district to demonstrater continued improvement.  He said since the school didn't plan to open until 2019, the panel should wait a year for approval. Friendship countered by saying Little Rock scores are below the state average. The Little Rock schools also have a far higher percentage of poor students than the state as a whole.

Mike Wilson asked his usual question about collaboration with public schools and they responded, as usual, why of course they'll collaborate. Why, in one city, they figured out a way for charter students to play football in collaboration with real public schools.

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