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State Board of Ed. to decide on review of charter schools expansion

Two Little Rock charter schools are hoping to expand, however, they may have to wait for the Arkansas State Board of Education's final decision if the board decides to review the plan.

The Arkansas Department of Education's Charter Authorizing Panel has already approved the expansion plans for E-Stem Public Charter Schools and Lisa Academy, however, if the board decides to review this on Thursday, the board will have final say on the expansion.

"The Little Rock School District first of all needs more time to get their feet and make the improvements they've been asked to make, but the other aspect is that this is re-segregation of the public schools and that's going to be wrong today, it's going to be wrong five years from now, it's going to be wrong 50 years from now," said Bill Kopsky, Arkansas Public Panel Policy's Executive Director.

The Arkansas Public Panel Policy and a former state board member are now speaking out against the charter schools expansions.

"We've gone in a completely different direction which is to make charter schools just exist for the purposes of giving families a choice to have their children in a school that is paid for with public funds, but is more affluent and less racial diverse than the communities, you know the traditional public school in the community, and that was never the intent," said former state board member, Sam Ledbetter.

E-Stem's Chief Executive Officer, John Bacon, released this statement to KATV:

This expansion, we believe, will be beneficial for students and families in our community, at present we have more than 6,400 students on the waiting list.
A two and half hour hearing has already been conducted with the Charter Authorizing Panel, we feel that all questions have been asked and answered and are hopefully that the State Board of Education will allow the decision to stand. We welcome all voices in the community who want to speak toward positive opportunities in public education, we respect the public policy panel's perspective, but we don't believe there is any time to wait for the 6,400 students and families on our waiting list.

State Board of Education Vice-Chair Mireya Reith released this statement to KATV:

It is positive that so many residents of the Little Rock school district are engaging in these discussions and communicating directly with us on the State Board of Education. It is only in hearing from the community, and those who could be impacted, that we can make an informed decision. Strong community engagement is instrumental to the success of our Arkansas public education system, including, and especially, to the decision-making process.

KATV reached out to Lisa Academy, but did not hear back.

LRSD's spokeswoman Pam Smith said they are respectfully declining to comment at this time, as they await the board's decision.

The board meets on Thursday at 10 a.m. and Channel 7 will be there to update this story.

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