The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported today on action by the state Education Department’s charter school advisory panel and the story contained a small surprise — a rare recommendation of the closure of a charter school.

The Southeast Prepatory High School in Pine Bluff has a record only a charter school advocate could love: F grade under the state’s standardized-test determined five-point system; a failure to provide promised services for special ed students; serious financial disarray including nonpayment for food services.

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There’s still hope for Southeast Prep. The state Board of Education could give it a reprieve. It did as much for another charter school that was failing academically and financially, Covenant Keepers, though even intervention by players in the Billionaire Boys Club finally couldn’t paper over that charter school disaster. There’s still been no accounting for missing money and equipment in that operation.

But the rest of the charter panel’s news yesterday was more typical. It gave:

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  • A FIVE-year extension for the Arkansas Virtual Academy, a profit-making online school that was expanded tremendously through the surreptitious work of the unqualified Education Secretary Johnny Key when he was carrying baggage for the Walton Family Foundation as a member of the state Senate. It scored D-Minus for its almost 2500 students, a deteriorating continuation of a lackluster record.
  • A THREE-year extension for the Capital City Lighthouse Academy in North Little Rock. It’s an F school.
  • A pass to the promise improvements at Pine Bluff Lighthouse Academy, another F school.

Remember that failing charter schools already enjoy waivers from many of the state requirements meant to ensure a broader, better education in real public schools. The so-called laboratories of innovation don’t appear to innovate much.

But carry on charters.

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Meanwhile, the state Board of Education continues to refuse to approve the independent existence of the Little Rock School District, though most of its schools perform better, under tougher standards, than the charter schools listed above.

The state not only continues to insist on controlling Little Rock schools, it has recently fired Hall High teachers en masse; directed the hiring of an unneeded principal; ventured (at the urging of someone from Springdale) into the naming of schools; prohibited it from choosing its superintendent; barred its constitutional access to the courts; refused to set objective criteria for evading state control; packed the school board that is to be elected next year (with limited powers) so that odds are it won’t be majority black and brown, and adopted rules that unconstitutionally limit the 1st Amendment speech rights of Little Rock supporters when they appear before the state Board of Education. They’ve established no timeline for an end to state control, even as hypocrites like Board member Chad Pekron say they favor “local control.”

Do you see the double standard? If you don’t, you are a Walton or a beneficiary of their money and influence or a foot soldier, as most state board members are, for Gov. Asa “Faubus” Hutchinson.

A lawsuit is in order. It’s coming.

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