Charter Schools in Arkansas

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Charter Schools in Arkansas

Charter Schools

Introduction

charter schools have become a common site in many states today. Currently, there are over 24 states with charter schools established and many other states have passed legislation for the creation of charter schools. Arkansas passed legislation in 1996 that would allow for the creation of charter schools in the state. Governor Mike Huckabee made it a priority in his educational agenda in 1997 to allow a pilot program of 15 schools to be implemented statewide (Cohen, 1998).

Even though Governor Huckabee and legislation is supporting this idea, there have been no successful applications so far. Charter applicants seek approval of the state department of education for the charter school but have meet with resistance so far. Fourche Valley School District in Yell County was the first to apply for charter school status in 1996, but was quickly turned down. The school has yet to reapply for the status. No other school districts in the state have attempted to file as of yet.
Statement of the Problem.

What is a charter school and what are the financial implications of creating a charter school?

Review of Literature

Charter schools are public schools but with a twist. They are created and operated by the educators, parents, community leaders, and others. The school must be sponsored by a designated local or state educational organization that monitors the school's progress, but that is as far as it goes. The school is free from the traditional bureaucratic red tape and policy makers from the state level. The school is basically governed at the local level. Some people view them as a local business meeting the demands of the community. The product they produce are educated children. If the quality of service is not being meet, the school answers to the community. This concept has high levels of accountability being placed on the school. As successful businesses know, if you produce a high quality product, the business will grow and succeed, if you produce anything less, you go out of business.

Opening a charter school also brings with it the ability to choose the school where you want your children to go. The center for education reform has taken a strong view on the subject of choice with charter schools. They believe that if the students choose to attend a certain school and the teachers choose to teach at a certain school, then the chances of success are more likely because both have chosen to be there (Center for education reform, 1999).

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The charter school must still operate lawfully and responsibly, but are much more free of red tape than regular public schools. Public schools governed by the state legislature and department of education are notoriously known to have bottlenecks when it comes to providing adequate educational opportunities for students. By moving the management decisions down to the local level, those bottlenecks that pop up can more readily be eliminated. Don Klein and JoAnn Izu make an excellent suggestion about management in charter schools. Along with the usual curricular and instructional areas, they suggest that charter schools will need diverse management styles such as finance, marketing, procurement, legal, and political areas to succeed (Klein, Izu, Yamashiro, 1999).

As was stated earlier, charter schools are public schools. This means that public monies are used in support of the school. If or when a child leaves a regular public school system and enters a charter school, the normal amount of money the state has allocated to that student's education will follow him/her to the new school. Because the charter schools have a sense of accountability with the community, studies have found that charter schools are more efficient with the money allocated to them. For example, the center for education reform found a charter school in San Fernando Valley that in its first year of operations, was able to create a $1 million surplus (the center for education reform, 1999). This money was used to expand school facilities.

There is also another way some charter schools are receiving financial support. Vouchers have been in use in several northern and northeastern school districts for sometime. The voucher system seems to work well with charter schools. With the voucher system, a parent and child will choose the school they believe best meets their needs. When the student decides to attend a particular school, the student is given a voucher equal in value to what the state will pay. This system creates a sense of competition among schools when this system is implemented. By competing for money, the school will provide the best resources and teachers so that parents and children will choose them among the others.

If a charter school must be created from the ground up, the financial burden might be quite high. They will need to find or build facilities to house the students in. Most charter schools however, use existing school building to convert over to a charter school. But if the community wants a charter school in their area, they may have to build one.

Discussion and Conclusion

Charter schools have pros and cons just like any other type of organization. In my opinion though, this new way of operating a school system has more pros than cons. Efficient management without any government red tape is a big plus in my book. Schools are always complaining about not having enough money to buy materials and supplies with. It is a proven fact that when a charter school has an efficient management team running the show, operations costs will be better managed. By allowing the children and the parents a choice as to which school to send their children, competition for the students and their money will drive the schools to perform better and more efficient. The only person the school had to answer to before was the government and who is a better example of misusing funds.

In conclusion, I believe that charter schools are an excellent idea. It is about time schools are run more like a business. Schools are in the business of producing the best quality student it can, but until now really did not have to prove it to anyone but the government and their standards are not that high. These new charter schools will have to answer to the customers. This will raise the quality level. Now that I have said this, why hasn't Arkansas jumped on the band wagon? Legislation has been passed approving it and schools have applied for it, so where are they. I believe the hang up is with the Arkansas Department of Education. Even though legislation says we can have them, the powers that be up in Little Rock are against charter schools and will do anything to prevent them from happening.

Bibliography:

REFERENCES

Cohen, J. (1997). Charter schools in Arkansas. Daily Report Card.

Verber, N. (1997). Answers to frequently asked questions about charter schools. The Center for Education Reform.


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