- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Seven traditional Arkansas school districts are becoming the first to use a new state law allowing them to apply for the kinds of legal waivers previously reserved for charter schools.

The new law - sponsored by state Rep. Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna, and others - permits traditional school districts to apply for and receive the kinds of waivers to laws and rules that have been granted to independently operated, open-enrollment charter schools for about 15 years.

The pioneer districts are asking to be exempted from requirements including the hiring and firing of teachers and support staff, grading scales and alternative learning environments for students not successful in regular classrooms, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/1MBBrjE ).

The seven districts seeking the waivers are Bentonville, Rogers, Harrison, Armorel, Batesville, Osceola and Forrest City.

Charter schools are public schools run in accordance with the terms of a charter or a contract with the state education board. They are exempt from some of the rules and laws that govern traditional schools, but in return for the waivers and flexibility, the schools are supposed to be held accountable for their student achievement rates.

A traditional school district can now be considered for a waiver if at least one student who lives within that school district attends a charter school, according to the new law.

There are 21 charter schools or charter-school systems in Arkansas, one of which is the Arkansas Virtual Academy that serves students online all across the state.

The new law requires a traditional school district seeking a waiver to list on its application the name or names of charter schools that are drawing away students.

The district also must list the waivers granted to the charter school, as well as the waivers the traditional district would like to get.

Melinda Moss, superintendent of the Harrison district, said her district is exploring the waiver option and is pleased to have the opportunity to seek one.

“There are so many opportunities right now for public schools, particularly public high schools, to start looking at how to meet the needs of today’s scholars,” she said.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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