Ten more charter schools have been proposed to open in Arkansas, with four slated to open in the Little Rock district alone. Applications are now under review by the Arkansas Department of Education before they are reviewed by the state Charter Authorizing Panel and the state Board of Education. This coincides with decisions by the Little Rock District to close three schools and to repurpose a fourth.
The district is currently under the direction of the state Education Commissioner, Johnny Key, because six of its 48 schools were labeled as being in academic distress. One of the proposed charter schools has asked to use a former Little Rock elementary school which had been sold in 2008 and then re-sold in 2012 to a Walton-controlled entity. Key is an open proponent of school choice.
The proposals amount to creating 2000 more charter school student seats with over a quarter of these seats slated for a Walton-owned charter company. This in a county that already holds 9,000 charter school seats. A Walton spokesperson noted that the proposed Walton backed charter school would offer high-quality educational choice to a neighborhood with few options. It should be noted that there are six existing schools within a few miles of the proposed charter school location; although, one is slated to be closed this summer due to under-enrollment.