Yesterday (November 1st), in a positive development for excellence in public school choice, the Arkansas Board of Education approved three charter applications by Responsive Education Solutions of Lewisville, Texas.

Today’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette story by Evie Blad and Cynthia Howell reported:

“Chris Heller, an attorney for the Little Rock district, argued that the charter school has a tight budget, it doesn’t plan to offer transportation beyond city bus passes and its enrollment isn’t limited to at-risk students but is open to any student.”

Mr. Heller’s arguments are hollow and ill-informed: 1) The highest performing public middle school in all of Pulaski County is in the bottom ten in the state in funding. The top funded two through eight in the state are the seven Little Rock School District Middle Schools. I’ll take the tight budget. 2) The district offers TNT (Transfer No Transportation), so I suppose they denigrate free public transportation so as not to be shown up by this new offering. 3) One would think a district so focused on integration based on race would welcome the opportunity for integration of at-risk and not-at-risk students to come together from all over the city in excellence.

“‘I’m concerned that the school could turn into more or less a prep school for Arkansas Baptist rather than a dropout recovery program,’ Heller said.

His mouth to God and Fitz Hill’s ears. Shouldn’t all schools be prep schools for two and four-year colleges? Arkansas Baptist is a prep school for life. May it and the community strongly benefit from the pipeline.

“The Little Rock district is challenging in federal court the state board’s approval of independently run charter schools in Pulaski County. The district argues that the state’s approval of charter schools violates its 1989 agreement to support Pulaski County desegregation efforts.

Charters were barely on the radar in 1989. When three of the 48 lowest performing schools in Arkansas (out of 1,080) are Little Rock School District magnets created as a result of the 1989 agreement (Henderson Middle, McClellan High, and J.A. Fair High) and one is the district’s own charter (Cloverdale Middle), parents and students deserve an alternative. Thirty years ago, the percentage difference between black and white students in the Little Rock School District was 40 points. In 2010, it was 47. Little Rock’s desegregation efforts are failing just fine on their own, thank you.

“If the district is successful in the court case, restrictions could be imposed on charter school operations and growth in Pulaski County. U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. is expected to issue a decision at any time on the charter-school dispute.

“Heller proposed on Thursday that the state board withhold action on any new charter schools in Pulaski County until a ruling is issued in the federal case.”

In other words, wait.

It’s bad enough that the Little Rock School District only offers small pockets of excellence in its middle and high schools. But it is unconscionable that the board, through its attorney, continues to aggressively oppose any public options not controlled by its dysfunctional, under and/or non-performing district.

It’s like the Razorbacks blaming their record on everyone else’s being too good. Snap out of it! Go to work, get better, and quit expecting the officials to make up for your lack of execution.

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