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If, say, Michael Jordan wanted to coach the basketball team at your local public school, would you want him to? Sure, you'd want him to.

But in this state, he might not be considered qualified--what with no official certificate to teach in the public schools.

Mr. Jordan may not be applying for a job coaching basketball in Arkansas' public schools, but charter schools see a similar scenario play out with some regularity. If a chemical engineer, say, is available to teach chemistry at a charter school, it shouldn't have to wait a couple of years while said engineer jumps through all the hoops to get his teaching credentials. The charter school simply applies for a waiver from the state, and Mr. Engineer goes to work teaching kids what he knows best. Hiring the best teachers for our kids should trump all that bureaucratic paperwork.

There's now a bill before the Legislature that would allow traditional public schools the same leeway as charters. That is, it would free them from burdensome rules and regs, and give them the ability to apply for a waiver to hire the best teacher available. And the reaction from the folks we know in the education-reform business? Why, of course the traditional public schools should have the same right.

That's the object of House Bill 1377, and it's a worthy one. No one we know has ever wanted charter schools to succeed at the expense of traditional public schools. The point was to create competition. So what was working in charter schools could be replicated in all public schools. Which seems to be what HB 1377 is all about.

This bill has been a long time in coming. Let's get busy then, and pass it into law. Soon.

At first glance, and only first glance, there seems to be but but one problem with HB 1377: According to the papers, it allows waivers for public schools only so long as a similar waiver exists at a nearby charter school. And if that charter school closes, or if its waiver is revoked, then the waiver for the traditional public school would be be revoked, too.

Why?

Would a pro like Mr. Hugo who's teaching chemistry in a public school--and doing a great job of it--be fired because a charter school in another zip code loses its waiver? What if a traditional public school needed a waiver to hire Mr. Hugo, but there doesn't happen to be a charter school nearby?

There's a reason lawmakers are allowed to amend bills. A few tweaks here and there, and this bill could be one of the best of the session. And one day our kids will be thankful.

Editorial on 03/09/2015

Print Headline: The more the merrier

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