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Thursday-go-to-meeting

Righteous work not just for Sundays

Lord willing and the creek don't rise, today's going to be an important day for thousands of kids all across Arkansas. And we're not talking about an algebra pop quiz.

The state's Board of Education is scheduled to meet today and Friday, and the agenda says today members should discuss whether to approve a handful of public charter schools. Again. The state's Charter Authorizing Panel gave preliminary approval to five charters this summer, and now the final approval awaits. Or more paperwork. Here's hoping the board does right by Arkansas' children, and follows the authorizing panel's suggestions.

You'll notice that over on the Voices page--look to your right--Gary Newton writes an eloquent, not to mention polite, op-ed about public charter schools and today's meeting. He always seems polite. In the South, we call that a product of good raisin'.

Of all the numbers that Mr. Newton mentions, though, one jumped out at us: He notes that 20 percent of all students who live south of the river in Pulaski County are enrolled in private schools. No wonder there are so many empty seats in the traditional public schools!

It's hard to find another number that so demonstrably shows a need for public charter schools. How shall we count the ways?

For starters, these families are paying local taxes to the public school district, and getting no immediate benefit from it. They pay taxes to support the school, and tuition to support their kids.

It seems Little Rock's school district could possibly get some of those students back if it offered more options. Such as, say, more space in charter schools. Folks are lining up around the block, figuratively, for chances to get into these charters. Just look at the waiting lists. These parents know that they don't want their kids in the traditional schools, and without charters, their only option is private schooling. Or moving to Sherwood, Benton, or Austin, Texas. Because they can afford it.

Which brings us to another point: Mostly it's the well-off families who can afford private schools. Talk about cherry-picking the students with the most involved parents. No matter what our friends in the teachers' unions might say, charter schools don't do that. Not with lottery systems in place. But the private schools certainly do.

We've said it before: When it comes to what's best for kids, no department of health, education and welfare can compete with the family, especially if it's allowed to make its own choices instead of having them dictated from above. Parents in Little Rock are voting not only with their feet, but with their pocketbooks.

Let's get these children back in the public schools. You'll note that charters are public schools. That laudable effort can start today. Is the state board listening?

Editorial on 09/14/2017

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