Education Advocates Oppose School Privatization Bill

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Education Advocates Oppose School Privatization Bill

HB-1733-300x295Little Rock -- A diverse coalition of education advocates from across Arkansas met at the Capitol Monday to uniformly oppose House Bill 1733. The bill would allow private charter corporations to take over public schools or districts in academic distress, killing local control and excluding community input in the process. “Our organizations represent a wide variety of education stakeholders including student, parent and community groups, teachers and administrators,” said Richard Abernathy, Executive Director of Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators. “All of our organizations occasionally differ on how to improve student learning most effectively, but we are united in our view that HB1733 is deeply flawed.” Abernathy said privatizing public schools or districts in distress is failing to improve student outcomes in other states. “New Orleans, Philadelphia, Memphis and a few other communities have tried educational experiments almost identical to HB1733,” he said. “An objective analysis of these experiments shows that student performance did not improve, and in some cases it declined.” In New Orleans, where an HB1733 experiment is underway, the results are alarming. After 10 years and billions of dollars spent, the Recovery School District is still ranked worse than 83% of Louisiana schools. While the experiments have failed to improve student learning, other problems, such as loss of local control, less civic engagement and growing inequality have resulted. “None of our organizations are opposed to accountable charter schools,” said said Regina Von Tungeln, a mother of three children in the Watson Chapel School District and Co-Chair of the Arkansas Opportunity to learn Campaign. “However, HB1733 uses charter schools to replace whole school districts, but with none of the standards, safeguards and requirements that traditional public schools meet.” Brenda Robinson, President of the Arkansas Education Association said this creates an opportunity for abuse of tax dollars and public trust. Charter corporations could cherry pick high performing students and leave more challenging students to fend for themselves in under-resourced schools. “All students, regardless of zip code, deserve support, tools and time to learn,” Robinson said. “A good education inspires students’ natural curiosity and builds their desire to learn, and we must ensure that every student has a caring, qualified and committed teacher. HB 1733 does quite the opposite.” In addition, the decision to privatize a school system is made solely by the Commissioner of Education with no process, no procedure, no transparency and no opportunity for local residents to make their opinions on the decision known. “This bill allows the state to permanently usurp local control and contains almost no community involvement,” said Regina Von Tungeln, a mother of three children in the Watson Chapel School District and Co-Chair of the Arkansas Opportunity to learn Campaign. “Parent, student, and community engagement are proven to boost student performance. We should be encouraging this cooperation, not eliminating it.” Nine groups signed a letter to legislators expressing their opposition: Arkansas Association of Education Administrators; Arkansas Education Association; Arkansas School Boards Association; Rural Community Alliance; Arkansas Opportunity to Learn Campaign; Arkansas Citizens First Congress; Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families; Arkansas Parent Teacher Association; Arkansas Rural Education Association.