The History and Status of Charter School Law and Policy in Arkansas
by Sarah A. Costrell and Patrick J. Wolf
There were 20 public charter schools operating in the state of Arkansas during the 2007-08 school year. Ten of these charter schools were “conversion” charters that continue to enroll only students in their surrounding neighborhood. The other 10 schools were “open enrollment” charters authorized to admit students from anywhere in the state. These charter schools enrolled approximately 5,300 students in pre-K through 12th grade. Eleven of them offered elementary school, 15 offered middle school, and 10 of them offered high school. Seven additional charter schools are scheduled to open in the fall of 2008.
The concept of the charter school has been around since the 1970s, when University of Massachusetts Professor Ray Budde suggested that committed groups of teachers and administrators, given a contractual obligation to the state, might be able to produce scholastic innovation beyond that of the normal public school system. These schools would be exempt from some of the restrictions placed on traditional public schools, but would answer to a higher authority to insure that certain standards would still be met. Charter schools began to appear in the form of “schools within schools” in Philadelphia in the 1980s, and similar efforts soon began in Minnesota, where the first charter school law was passed in 1991. Other states followed suit and, as of 2008, 40 states and the District of Columbia have charter school laws.
Arkansas passed its first public charter school law, Act 1126, in 1995. Due to its restrictiveness, however, no charter schools opened at the time. Act 1126 only permitted existing schools to transition into a certain kind of charter school known as a conversion school. Before such conversions could take place, two-thirds of the school’s employees and students’ parents had to support the change, the local school board had to approve the charter, and the charter had to conform to regulations set forth by the State Board of Education, including requirements concerning collective bargaining that are uncommon to charter school policies.
In 1999, the state legislature passed Act 890 to revise Arkansas’s charter school law. Act 890 allowed for the creation of new, open-enrollment charter schools in addition to conversion charters. These schools could be opened and managed by any non-sectarian group with tax-exempt status, including both public and private colleges and universities. Open enrollment charter schools could accept students from across district lines, in contrast to conversion charters, which could only accept students from their local school district. Up to twelve open-enrollment charter schools could be opened under the Act, with no more than three of the schools in any of the state’s four congressional districts. There was no cap on the number of existing schools that could be converted to charter schools. The passage of Act 890 generated charter school applications, and the state’s first four charter schools opened in the fall of 2001.
Several additional laws have further defined Arkansas’s charter school policy over the years. These include 2001’s Act 1788, which gives students with siblings already enrolled in charter schools priority over those without siblings in the school, and Act 463, which allows schools to use a “weighted lottery” in the selection process to fulfill desegregation laws under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 2005, Act 2005 was passed, raising the cap on open-enrollment charter schools from twelve to twenty-four. In 2007, Act 736 removed the requirement for equal distribution of charter schools over the state’s four congressional districts. All charter schools must be authorized by the State Board of Education, which may grant charters of up to five years to approved schools. Conversion charter schools are funded by the district school board, while open-enrollment schools are funded by the State Board of Education.
ARKANSAS CHARTER SCHOOLS
More information available on the Arkansas Department of Education website.Read More
School info: 2750 W. Semmes / Osceola, AR 72370 Phone:870-563-2561 Fax: School Type: Conversion www.osceola.k12.ar.us Director: Ellouise Tubbs Grades: 1-9 Hours: N/A School Size: 446 (2007-08) Student-Teacher Ratio: 11.5 Graduation Rate: N/A Percent of Teachers with a Master’s degree: 7% Percent of Certified Teachers: 100% Percent of Students Eligible for FRL: 100% Mission Statement: Arts Programs: Sports Programs: Awards: Clubs: References Arkansas Department of Education. Available […]Read More
School info: 900 Edgewood Drive / Maumelle, AR 72113 Phone:501-851-3333 Fax: 501-851-2599 School Type: Open Enrollment www.academicsplus.org/ Director: Dr. Mona Briggs Grades: K-12 Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. School Size: 274 (grades 3-8), 129 (grades 9-12) (2007-08) Student-Teacher Ratio: 12.3 for HS, 9.8 for MS Graduation Rate: Percent of Teachers with a Master’s degree: For grades 3-8: 36%; for grades 9-12: 0% Percent […]Read More
School info: 10802 Executive Center Drive, Suite 205 / Little Rock, AR 72211 Phone:866-339-4952 Fax: School Type: Open Enrollment www.arva.org Director: Karen Ghidotti Grades: K-8 Hours: N/A School Size: 396 (ARVA), 103 (ARVA, Jr.) (2007-08) Student-Teacher Ratio: Graduation Rate: Percent of Teachers with a Master’s degree: 0% Percent of Certified Teachers: 0% Percent of Students Eligible for FRL: N/A Mission Statement: We at K12 believe […]Read More
School info: 401 W. Center St. / Beebe, AR 72012 Phone:501-882-8413 Fax: School Type: Conversion badger.k12.ar.us Director: Brandy Dillin Grades: 7-12 Hours: School Size: 28 (2007-08) Student-Teacher Ratio: Graduation Rate: Percent of Teachers with a Master’s degree: Percent of Certified Teachers: Percent of Students Eligible for FRL: Mission Statement: Arts Programs: Sports Programs: Awards: Clubs: References Arkansas Department of Education. […]Read More