The Network for Public Education, an organization that supports traditional public schools, has issued a state-by-state evaluation of the states based on the extent to which they support public schools or, by lack of accountability, favor privatized school choice in the form of vouchers, scholarship programs akin to vouchers and charter schools. Arkansas got an F, along with 16 other states.

Overall grades were assigned based on the extent of privatized school choice in the form of vouchers, neo-vouchers and charter schools, as well as the quality of the state’s laws that promoted accountability, oversight, transparency and civil rights.

Nebraska, North Dakota, and West Virginia got A-pluses.

Among other shortcomings, the report notes that Arkansas was one of seven states that didn’t require background checks for teachers and employees in voucher-receiving schools. Arkansas, Maine and North Carolina were judged least accountable for vouchers programs, still in early stages in Arkansas but backers hope to expand it this session.

The network wants to stop the flow of money to voucher programs; to end so-called “scholarship” programs in which backers of private schools can divert their state tax money to a fund for private school vouchers; absorb charter schools into public school systems and require them to have public governance; pass laws that ensure equal treatment of children by different types of schools (no discrimination on race, sexual orientation, ability or other classifications, in other words.)

The report concludes:

This country should not continue to tolerate and subsidize unaccountable private and privately managed charter schools. True, it is easier to transfer public funds to private entities than to undertake the challenging work of fixing our public schools. But it is fruitless and short-sighted to divert resources from the public schools that serve the vast majority of students in this nation. We believe that privatization is not only harmful to the public schools that enroll most children but has enabled policymakers to shirk their responsibility to fully support and improve our public schools and their teachers. Both partial and full privatization are ineffective substitutes for adequately funding public schools. We fear that the current political movement for privatization is leading toward the re-establishment of a dual school system. 

The Network was founded by Diane Ravitch, a career educator who was once a part of the “reform” movement but who has come to see it as a danger to public education.