As noted yesterday, state Education Department staff cautioned state Board of Education members about communicating by e-mail outside meetings in the runup to Friday’s session about coming review of charter school expansions requests in Little Rock.
That counsel included the note shown above in which the department’s attorney, Kendra Clay, said another staff member could act as a “liaison” to distribute information. If that distribution of information leads to decisions by a board — and that seemed to have been the case last week when Board member Brett Williamson’s effort to quash the review briefly made the board’s agenda and then was pulled — it could run counter to the Freedom of Information Act. I have received an indication that formal questions may yet be raised in court about state Board compliance with the FOI last week.
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In the meanwhile, a lawyer with expertise in the field reminds me of an Arkansas Siupreme Court decision on the FOI involving the Fort Smith City Board. In that case, serial one-on-one communications between a city manager and members of the board to reach a board decision was held unanimously to be a violation of the FOI. Did such one-on-one conversations last week lead to decisions to add and subtract items to the state Board agenda? A good question, at least.
Another stray question re charter school expansions:
In Friday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a LISA charter school official said it could not provide demographic information about students on its waiting list because it could not legally obtain racial information from applicants. This contrasts with repeated assertions from the eStem charter school and its cheerleaders on the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page that two-thirds of the students on eStem’s putative 6,000-student waiting list are African-American. Is it legal to obtain this information or is it not? If eStem has that information, why can’t LISA?