The state Board of Education today voted to put the Dollarway School District in fiscal distress, which allows state to assert control.
The Board also voted 5-3 for a proposal by member Jay Barth to study ways that conventional public school districts and charter schools in Pulaski County can collaborate. Barth’s outline included as a suggested topic the pattern of students with certain demographic characteristics — income, race, achievement — to seek out open enrollment charter schools. This drew an anguished blast from Gary Newton, the Walton-paid lobbyist for charter school creation and Little Rock School District destruction. It’s a myth that this happens, he claims. He’s wrong. There’s segregation aplenty. In Little Rock, you have some charters that are almost exclusively poor minority kids with low achievement. Then you have the ones that Newton favors particularly with Walton support that are whiter, richer and more likely to receive already achieving kids leached out of the Little Rock School District. Really, what’s really to study? Charters segregate. Here and everywhere.
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Staunch charter school advocates Diane Zook (Gary Newton’s aunt and wife of Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce boss Randy Zook), Brett Williamson (an employee of the pro-charter Murphy millionaires) and Charisse Dean (an employee of the home-school loving Family Council) — voted no. Why have a study that might suggest in some ways charters aren’t all they’re cracked up to be?
For example: It’s not particularly cost-effective or efficient — other topics mentioned by Barth for study — to create duplicate school structures, as the charters have done. In maximizing achievement, a consultant just might find that charters haven’t really invented a new mousetrap, they’ve just succeeded with the types of kids that likely will succeed wherever they go to school and performed with little difference overall on like groups of students. Or maybe not. But if you don’t study, you don’t run any risks of adverse answers.
A committee named by Education Commissioner Johnny Key and Board Chair Toyce Newton will pick a consultant to do the work. I bet Gary Newton has some good ideas, after he checks in with his controllers at the Walton Family Foundation.
ALSO: The Board today approved new math standards for K-12. See them here.