Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin yesterday spoke in favor of expanding school choice options for low-income students in Little Rock.
Griffin spoke to the Charter Authorizing Panel at the Arkansas Department of Education in support of an open-enrollment public charter school application for Einstein Charter School in Little Rock. Einstein operates four charter schools in New Orleans that predominantly serves low-income children.
Some of the things I hear from opponents of this school or charter schools in general: First of all, in this particular case, you hear a lot about “Well, they take the best students, they take the upper income, they take the whatever.” Completely untrue. The focus of Einstein will be lower-income folks who can’t afford a private school, who can’t move to somewhere else. They want more choice too. My kids go to public school, but I have been blessed. I have some other options. Not everybody has those options. I want everybody to have those options. What if you could only have one store that you could shop because you were districted? You had to shop where you live. You couldn’t drive out somewhere and go to another store. That’d be ridiculous. The same thing applies to schools.
Conservatives know that competition improves outcomes in private business. Sometimes, lawmakers in Arkansas seem not to comprehend that competition is also good for K-12 public education. Too many lawmakers in Arkansas are eager to protect existing, traditional public schools at the expense of school choice options for Arkansas students. Based on his testimony yesterday, Griffin doesn’t make this mistake.
And let me say one final thing. A foundational problem with the anti-choice, anti-charter argument is this: It requires, it asks of parents that they set aside the best interest of their child who is living today in the hopes that decades down the road, the system might get its act together and provide for a child yet born–the education that parent would want for that child not yet born – maybe the parent’s not yet born. But it’s basically saying to parents, “Hey, I know you got a kid now, I know your kid needs the best education now, but if you give your kid the best education now, in twenty years, in ten years, when we might get our act together, you’re putting that at risk.” Well, let me tell you. I know it’s not just me, we all feel the sentiment I’m going to express, and that is that we are concerned about our child today. That is my obligation from God, that is my responsibility as a parent under the law, and that is what the love in my heart first and foremost would have me do. Take care of my child who lives today. Not some opaque argument about if you take your child away today from the education that may not be ideal, you will somehow put at risk the chance that we have in twenty years to get our act together and provide the education for somebody that’s not yet born. That’s a ridiculous argument. That argument underpins all of the opposition to choice today. It hinges on the future, with a recognition that things aren’t where they ought to be.
Little Rock School District Superintendent Michael Poore basically proved Griffin’s point when he argued against approving the schools.
Poore urged the board to disallow the new charter school plans. Poore said approval of new charter schools would “cause greater turmoil in this community” and make it “more challenging for us to move forward” in improving the Little Rock School District.
While it’s true that new competition can be challenging in any industry, education policy should be based on allowing parents to give their students the education that best fits their needs.
Ultimately, the panel voted unanimously to give initial approval to two new Little Rock charter schools, Einstein and ScholarMade Achievement Place.