Monday, March 05, 2007

Charter School Opponents And A Disturbing Pattern


Two days after being voted down 43-49, the bill passed the House as 18 members who did not vote for it last time did so this time (verses only five of the 43 who failed to vote for it this time.)

A bill that would somewhat loosen Arkansas's restrictive Charter School law was voted down today 43-49. The sponsor used a parliamentary procedure that gives him three more days to get the votes. Here in italics are some of the reasons for the "no" votes from one of the leaders of the House, a gentleman to be sure, but sometimes sometimes charm is not enough to placate the savage beast that is your moderator. Sometimes I will only settle for explanations that make sense when checked against past behavior.

1) Section 15 could exhaust the start-up grant funding provided by the USDOE;

Neglecting the fact that the USDOE is an extra-constitutional entity, what is wrong with "exhausting" the funding? Isn't that about the same thing as USING the federal funding? I mean , you did vote in expansions of medicare and medicaid in part because of "matching funds" from the feds, right? I kept hearing from some quarters that we had to expand this or that government program because we did not want to "leave money on the table". Are we "leaving money on the table" by not "exhausting" our DOE grant money? Why wouldn't we want to "exhaust", I.E. spend it?

(2) Additional transportation costs would be incurred by the state;

How much? Surely only a fraction of the extra 1.1 billion that has been spent on education since Lakeview. Last session you guys spent $107 million to add compliance educrats to the state DOE and raise salaries. Why is it that there is always money available for things that will centralize control but never enough money for things that will give more freedom to localities?

(3) We're having enough trouble providing an adequate education for our public schools -- we're going to wear ourselves too thin;

An excellent point. On the same logic I can only presume that you will vote against an expansion of Pre-K. My concern is that you guys are SELDOM worried about spreading ourselves too thin on things that EXPAND government, only on projects that expand FREEDOM.

(4) Recent statistics show that test scores have been lower for charter school students compared to their public school counterparts.

Which is exactly what Debbie Pelley has documented about Magnet Schools, yet you guys are falling all over yourselves to push them.

Why? Same reason as on the other two. Magnet schools are centrally controlled.......

(continued, click MONDAY and scroll down for rest of article, or if sent straight here just scroll down)


Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

.........Magnet schools ARE centrally controlled. The Central Planners can say, "this one is where we send our future engineers and mechanics, this one is where we send our future medical personnel", etc... Charter schools are not centrally controlled. Each locality makes up their own charter based on what is important to THEM.

Charter schools like the Benton County School for the Arts are highly sucessful. I don't care about the test scores. The tests are far from a perfect, or even adequate, measure of what students should know. Bob Dylan, the greatest songwriter in America, would flunk the writing portion of the state test because he would not follow their formula for writing a paragraph.

The maniacal focus on state test scores alone is yet another symptom of the pattern I see- a dangerous centralization of power.

In Arkansas, 12 charter schools were initially allowed in the early 1990's (3 per congressional district). That was expanded to 24 in 2005, even though only 8 were in existence at that time. Many people are voting against it on the basis that demand is not pushing the supply as much as political forces are expanding the supply.

The "supply" is not being expanded by upping the maximum allowed, only the "potential supply". People who want to start charter schools still face significant hurdles. Demand IS pushing the supply away from public schools, making it easier to start a charter school could reverse some of that. Instead, you guys are keeping a clamp-down on the charter schools, telling the population to either accept the big-government centrally controlled school or get out. Well, they are getting out, to home school and private schools. Your best chance to keep some of them is to take down some of the many barriers you place on forming charter schools. But once again, that would allow people too much freedom to control their own lives.

I apologize for speaking so frankly, but I see a paradigm shift is needed, and the time is short. If I am wrong, show me where.

7:07 PM, March 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You said, "Recent statistics show that test scores have been lower for charter school students compared to their public school counterparts.

While Debbie is correct and this is true of magnet schools, it is a falsehood about the charter schools. The fact is that most of the charter schools around the country have been located in disadvantaged areas where indeed the scores are lower than the states average, but are substantially above the surrounding public schools.

To make matters worse, the resistance to charter schools in Arkansas from the Dept. of Education and groups like the AEA has been disproportionate. Every effort is being made in Arkanas to cause the schools to fail.

7:29 AM, March 06, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: Transportation funds: No one gets transportation funds, per se. Currently transportation in rolled into the generic foundation aid of $5,662 per pupil that every school receives. What the bill would do would be to allow Charter Public Schools the same per pupil or per mile rate given to Traditional Public Schools, should the state return to categorical funding in this area.

RE: Exhausting the USDOE funds; the funds can only be used for two things, planning and start up grants for new Charter Public Schools; and expenses for activities emanating from or developing/expanding the Charter Office in the Arkansas Department of Education. So, the concern seems to be that the ADE won't have enough federal money to further inflate it's bureaucracy.

8:32 AM, March 06, 2007  
Anonymous Mark Moore said...

That's some good research there blogger brigade!

3:44 PM, March 06, 2007  

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