Charter School Authorizing Panel Membership Requirements Stripped By Arkansas Senate

Feb 21, 2017

Arkansas Department of Education Building in Little Rock near the state Capitol building.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A bill to open-up membership in the public charter school authorizing panel to anyone in the public – without requirement – sailed through the Arkansas Senate on Monday. Currently the panel that makes recommendations on whether charter schools should open, close, or expand is made up of Department of Education employees.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren said establishing criteria for holding the posts is a burden on the state.

“I don’t think it is good policy for us to over stipulate what qualifications a person should have. If we don’t trust the directors of the departments to pick qualified people then we need to look at why we picked that director of the department. I have confidence in the people to make good hires,” said Hendren.

State Senator Joyce Elliott disagreed with the Republican from Gravette. Elliot, a Democrat from Little Rock, called it “mission creep” to change the make-up of the charter authorizing panel.

“When we put the authorizing panel in place it was to make sure we were putting in place people who understood education and educational policy to just simply give a recommendation to our state board,” said the former educator.

The bill passed 28 to 5 and now heads to the House.