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SPRINGDALE -- Both candidates for the state House District 86 race expressed misgivings about charter schools as currently authorized by the state.

Nicole Clowney and Mark Kinion are running as Democrats for the House seat being vacated by Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, who is running for the Senate. No Republican filed for the race, meaning the winner of the May 22 primary will face no major party opposition in the Nov. 6 general election.

Nicole Clowney
Mark Kinion

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The two appeared Tuesday before the Northwest Arkansas Senior Democrats to answer questions from the group, which met at the Western Sizzlin' restaurant in Springdale at 11:30 a.m.

Charter schools are publicly funded independent schools established by teachers, parents or community groups. Clowney said they are often inaccessible to parents who cannot provide transportation to and from a local charter school, potentially putting a bias into student selection, and that waivers to teacher certifications in them can create a "two-tiered" standard for teachers. Kinion said he concurred and that, in addition, he objected to what he called "sneaky ways" lawmakers keep trying to steer public funds to schools outside the general education system.

Kinion took particular note of the recently passed legislation allowing tax-exempt savings accounts previously used for college education to be used to pay private school tuition. "A private school should be a private school funded with private money," he said.

Scott Smith is executive director of the Arkansas Public School Resource Center, a membership organization that advocates for and supports charter schools and mostly rural school districts. In a telephone interview after the two candidates' remarks, Smith said that charter schools can address a variety of needs and serve parents who face challenges such as limited access to transportation. There are charter schools serving disadvantaged areas in Arkansas quite well, he said. He also said that any issues with private schools were unrelated because a charter school is a public school.

In a related issue, Lisa Whitaker of Fayetteville told the group she's running to replace Tyler Clark, the chairman of the Washington County Democratic Party who stepped down March 8. The party will pick a new chairman in a meeting Monday in Fayetteville.

NW News on 03/21/2018

Print Headline: House candidates speak on charter schools

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