The North Little Rock School District today successfully challenged an application for an open enrollment charter school, the Capitol City Lighthouse Charter School, in North Little Rock.
North Little Rock officials said the school wouldn’t meet a need not already being met in North Little Rock. They noted the school proposed to locate in a neighborhood already served by achieving schools. They said North Little Rock schools were outperforming schools operated by the same organization in Pine Bluff and Jacksonville.
“There s no education need for this charter school in North Little Rock,” said Beth Stewart, the assistant superintendent in North Little Rock. The panel voted 5-1 to deny the application.
North Little Rock said Lighthouse’s application was virtually identical to applications made elsewhere, hardly a sign of “innovation.” The petition for the school also included the signature of a North Little Rock school official who said she had not signed the petition. Stewart raised questions about service for disabled students and poor students who can’t provide transportation to the school. Dennis Glasgow of the Little Rock Schiool District said the Little Rock Board also opposed the application. He questioned the budget projections, with a narrow margin for breaking even that could be jeopardized for failing to meet enrollment targets or enrollment of poor children who qualify for support given those who qualify for free and reduced price lunches. He noted, too, that the proposal called for teachers to report to a director of teacher leadership, who is primarily a coach, rather than the principal. Superintendent Kelly Rogers noted that, because of an addressing error, North Little Rock wasn’t given adequate notice of the application to fully respond at every step of the hearing process.
The hearing was before the Charter Authorizing Panel, a group created by the 2013 legislature to hear charter school applications in place of the state Board of Education. Its decisions can still be appealed to the state board. Charter school proponents pressed for bypassing the state Board of Education because, though it has approved many charter schools, it hasn’t approved all of them. The panel is drawn from department staff.
Also today, the Springdale School District will oppose an application for another open enrollment charter school, the Ozark College and Career Academy.