Policy Documents

Defend Charter Schools

Charter schools are public schools free from some oversight and regulation. They are approved by the state Board of Education, and operated by teachers, parents or other qualified individuals. Charter restrictions were liberalized in 1999, 2005 and 2007.

Some Little Rock public school officials threaten legal action to turn back the clock on this education reform. Their message to the U.S.: Arkansas is not serious about education reform.

The Policy Foundation, since its founding in 1995, has championed charter schools as an education reform. APF analysts Allyson Tucker and Donna Watson, in a 1996 study, noted Arkansas had a weak charter school law. "Charter schools," they wrote, "are increasingly championed on both sides of the political fence and few political leaders have been more vocal about their promise than President (Bill) Clinton." A 2004 APF research memo noted, "Mr. Clinton championed charter schools during his two terms (1993-2001) in the White House. His presidential papers show he spoke in favor of charter schools on many occasions during his presidency." One example occurred on March 6, 1997 when Mr. Clinton told a joint session of the Michigan legislature, "We want high standards, schools that are open to all children regardless of their backgrounds. We want an example of accountability, which will then spread to all other public schools."

Charters have come a long way since 1995. PA 890 of 1999 advanced the charter concept. A 2005 measure (PA 2005) sponsored by state Sen. Steven Bryles, D-Blytheville, doubled the number of charters from 12 to 24 and provided for an unlimited number of Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) schools. PA 736 of 2007 provided for further expansion of the charter concept. A record number of charters operate in Arkansas in the 2008-2009 school year.

There are several ways to advance the charter concept:

  • Empower public universities to sponsor charters: and
  • Recognize charters under the Lake View case in terms of equitable funding for facilities; and
  • Provide greater autonomy to charters in granting waivers.
  • Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is responsible for defending the Arkansas charter statute in court against any legal challenge from Little Rock.