Low scores for Arkansas on commitment to public schools

Mon, Aug 6, 2018

The Network for Public Education has published a national survey gradingstates on public education as measured by their support for privatization efforts, to the detriment of conventional public schools. Arkansas scores poorly.

The group is fighting the “choice” movement promoted by, among others, the hugely wealthy Walton Family Foundation. It explains:

While most will not dispute the value of education, some challenge the value of public education. They contend that only through competition will public schools improve, and that options such as religious schools, private schools, and charter schools run by non-profit and for-profit corporations are systemically better than public schools run by locally elected school boards.

We disagree. Although the public school system is not perfect and has continual room for improvement, it is still the cornerstone of community empowerment and advancement in American society. The required inclusivity of the public school setting provides more opportunity for students to learn in culturally, racially, and socioeconomically integrated classrooms and schools, and that promotes social-emotional and civic benefits for students.

This survey is not a survey of education quality but of policies that favor charter schools — particularly with lack of required certification for teachers, among many ways Arkansas encourages privately operated schools and on-line systems financed with tax money  — and favor vouchers or the euphemistic equivalent, tuition tax credit “scholarships,” which are just now getting a toehold in Arkansas.

Here’s the executive summary. It says tax money shouldn’t go to private schools and that there should be a moratorium on new voucher and charter programs. Vouchers should be phased out and existing charter schools should be absorbed into existing public school systems. No tax credit should be given for private school contribution that isn’t given for public school contribution, the group recommends.

Here’s the full scoring.  Though Arkansas scores are low, they could be worse, with the state ranking in the bottom 40 percent in the three categories. Arkansas was found least accountable in voucher programs, with no required background checks for teachers and staff.

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