CHOICE AND CHARTERS SHOULD EXPAND
IN LITTLE ROCK
"The most callused aspect of the (Arkansas) education monopoly is that it willingly and deliberately forces children--except those whose parents have wealth--to attend bad schools. And it does so with financial resources taken from parents already struggling financially and at the expense of their ability to choose a better school for their sons and daughters." Policy Foundation report (Murphy Commission) 1998
(February 2016) School choice and charter schools have advanced since the Little Rock School District was taken over by the state one year ago. The Succeed Scholarship Program, Arkansas' first school choice law was enacted by the state legislature but awaits funding. The E-STEM and Lisa Academy charter systems are also proposing to expand in Little Rock.
Both ideas should advance in 2016. Critics of school choice and charters have condemned the state takeover. These defenders of the Little Rock status-quo in Little Rock lack credibility. They excused poor academic performance for decades and have not offered credible policy alternatives.
The Policy Foundation has maintained an interest in education reform since its founding 21 years ago. The Foundation published the first Arkansas study calling for charters in 1996.1 The reform has advanced, with 23 conversion charters and 29 open-enrollment charters operating in the 2015-2016 school year, state Department of Education records2 show. The Foundation also called attention to Little Rock's serious academic and fiscal issues in a 1999 study.3 The critics who disputed there was a problem in Little Rock continue their opposition to choice and charters. They ignore the parents, guardians and students who support these ideas.
School choice and charters should expand in Little Rock--for the students.
1 Allyson Tucker and Donna Watson. Arkansas' Weak Charter School Law: Failing The Grade.
2 Arkansas Department of Education: http://www.arkansased.org/contact-us/charter-schools
3 A Performance Analysis of the Little Rock School District: Ten years of rising revenues and declining student academic achievement. The study is posted at: www.arkansaspolicyfoundation.org