Arkansas: State Board Renews Failing Charter School But Won’t RestoreLocal Control to Little Rock Public Schools

This is a shocking story, by Max Brantley, one of the leading journalists in Arkansas and an outspoken critic of the Waltons, who use their billions to dominate the state and the University of Arkansas.

Get this: the State Board of Education just renewed a charter school that has failed to meet standards for nine years in a row. But the state board refuses to relinquish its takeover of the Little Rock School District, which lost control because only six of its 48 schools were not meeting standards.

You have to read the whole thing to see the powerful tentacles of the Walton Family at work.

“Faced with a solid recommendation by a panel of state employees to revoke the charter of Covenant Keepers charter school in Southwest Little Rock, the state Board of Education voted again last week to forgive the school’s poor academic and financial record.

“Again, the state Board of Education accepted excuses it won’t tolerate from the Little Rock School District.

“The board took over the Little Rock School District two years ago and won’t let go, though 45 of its 48 schools exceed the performance of Covenant Keepers and the others are easily in its league academically.

“Covenant Keepers, 9 years old this August, has NEVER met proficiency standards. The grade 6-8 school showed about 28 percent of its students meeting the standard in reading and 20 percent in math in the most recent tests. It’s also been in a persistent financial mess.

“The school had a huge negative fund balance, in part because it was in arrears to the state for taking money in excess of its 160-student enrollment. (You wouldn’t think counting to 160 is high-order math.) Proper tax forms weren’t in evidence for employees and contractors. It failed to provide requested documentation for credit card charges, including out-of-state trips. Its director, Valerie Tatum, is paid a whopping $135,000, or better than $800 per student to run a 160-student school. No comparable school leader in Arkansas comes close.

“What’s the rub? Covenant Keepers has powerful friends. The Walton Family Foundation provided cash infusion to fix its red-ink-bathed books. The money was passed through an opaque, unaccountable charter management corporation. Jess Askew, a tall-tower Little Rock lawyer who lawyers for Walton-supported school “choice” initiatives, pled the case for Covenant Keepers. The head of the Office of Education Policy at the University of Arkansas — a charter school-promoting operation that owes its existence and pay subsidies to the Waltons — testified that Covenant Keepers was, well, doing a bit better and used the Little Rock School District as a whipping boy. She said Covenant Keepers in the most recent year of testing did as well as some nearby Little Rock district schools. Valerie Tatum said she’s getting valuable support from the Arkansas Public School Resource Center, another charter school advocate underwritten by, yes, the Walton Family Foundation.”

from sarah http://ift.tt/2rdzFjP

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