Thirteen organizations are making preliminary plans for 14 new open-enrollment charter schools across the state, including some in Pulaski County, where state-approved charter schools face a legal challenge.
Sponsors of the proposed schools must submit applications by Aug. 31 for any of the schools to start in 2011-12.
Four new charter schools are envisioned for Pulaski County, now home to 12 of the state's 18 charter schools. The 12 include the Arkansas Virtual Academy that is based in Little Rock but serves students statewide.
Three proposed schools would be in Pine Bluff. Others are in the works for Fort Smith, Texarkana, Hope, Forrest City, Gillett, McNeil and Emmet.
Even if all the sponsoring organizations follow through by sending in full applications for the 14 schools, no more than six can be approved by the state Board of Education.
Arkansas law caps the number of taxpayer-funded, autonomous charter schools at 24. There is an exception to that cap for the establishment of additional campuses by an existing charter school. The KIPP: Delta Public Schools based in Helena-West Helena, for example, operates four campuses under the umbrella of a single charter, or contract, with the state.
Arkansas has a cap on charter schools despite the support charter schools have received from President Barack Obama's administration.
The White House website page on education states: "The President believes that investment in education must be accompanied by reform and innovation. The President supports the expansion of high quality charter schools. He has challenged States to lift limits that stifle growth among successful charter schools and has encouraged rigorous accountability for all charter schools.
The letters of intent to start new charter schools across Arkansas come at a time when the Little RockSchool District has filed a motion in federal court challenging the state's practice of approving open-enrollment charters in Pulaski County without regard to desegregation efforts in the county's traditional public schools.
Three of the proposed charter schools are planned for Little Rock.
The three are the Learning for Life Academy for 100 11th- and 12th-graders at a site on Daisy Gatson Bates Drive, the Arkansas School for Integrated Academics and Technologies for grades nine through 12 at the Little Rock Job Corps Center on Scott Hamilton Drive, and Valley Military Academy for grades seven through 12 at an unspecified location in the city.
Little Rock School District Superintendent Linda Watson did not return a message left for her at her office Wednesday.
Mike Wilson of Jacksonville, a former state representative and now the contact for the proposed Flightline Academy charter school in Jacksonville, said Wednesday that he was not deterred by the limit on charter school numbers nor by the legal challenge.
"It's a competitive thing, Wilson said about the charter school process. "I feel very confident that we will have a first-class application that will be as good or better than any of the others.
As for the Little Rock district's legal challenge: "That is a concern for all the charter schools in this area, he said, "but there is not a hearing set on that now. Many of the people who are interested in education see [the Little Rock challenge] for what it is and that is Send me more money,' Wilson said about what he believes is the Little Rock district's motivation.
The Flightline Academy would be a school for pupils in grades six through eight and would be on or near Little Rock Air Force Base, which is in Jacksonville.
The school would not necessarily feature an aviation centered curriculum, Wilson said, but is being proposed largely by parents dissatisfied with the Pulaski County Special School District and its operation of Northwood Middle School.
Parents in the area want a rigorous educational program for their children, he said.
"We're still a work in progress, Wilson said, adding that the planners would likely turn to the existing Jacksonville Lighthouse Academy charter school to operate the proposed middle school.
The Jacksonville Lighthouse Academy, part of a national charter school system, has submitted its own letter of intent to open a charter school in Pine Bluff.
Two others are proposed for Pine Bluff: the Turning Point Charter Academy to serve kindergarten through fourth grade and the KNOVA Learning Academy for 250 in kindergarten through eighth grades.
Pine Bluff currently has one charter school, Hope Academy, which can serve 120 pupils in grades five through eight. The Arkansas Board of Education has summoned Hope school operators to Monday's 9 a.m. Education Board meeting because of concerns about the school's finances.
Included among the preliminary plans is a proposal for the Miller McCoy Academy of Mathematics and Business for up to 400 boys in grades five through 12 in Forrest City.
Tiffany Hardrick, a graduate of Forrest City High School and a former principal of a middle school in Memphis, said she is proposing to model the school after the original Miller McCoy charter school, for nearly 700 boys, that has operated since 2007 in New Orleans.
"The need is the same in general across the country for boys. They are the ones who lag behind in school, Hardrick said. "Forrest City is no different.
The Forrest City school, like the one in New Orleans, will require the pupils to wear blazers, khaki pants and neckties. They must take yearly courses in business starting in eighth grade, and they must double up on math courses.
To be eligible to graduate from the high school, they must be accepted to a four year college. The New Orleans school will graduate its first class in 2012.
"We've had some success in the last two years in New Orleans, Hardrick said, "but the true test will be when all of our young men graduate and go to college.
Some of the proposed charter-school sponsors have applied in previous years, but their plans were not approved by the state board. They have been resubmitted with some changes. The Prism Education Center last year proposed a charter school for Fayetteville. This year the plan calls for the school to be in Fort Smith.
Gillett Civic Group Inc. is resubmitting plans for a kindergarten-through-12th-grade school in that community, where the traditional public school campus was recently closed by the DeWitt School District.
The eBlast Academy - which stands for exploring business, language, science and technology - is a repeat plan proposed for the former McNeil High School building.
The number of letters of intent - 14 - is the same number submitted in 2009. In that year, eight applications were ultimately submitted. The Little Rock Urban Collegiate Charter School for Young Men was awarded a charter and will open this school year. The KIPP: Delta Public Schools was awarded a license to open its new Blytheville campus.
Planning charter schools Thirteen organizations have submitted letters to the state Department of Education, indicating they plan to submit proposals later this summer to operate charter schools in 2011-2012. The state Board of Education will make a decision over the winter.
Sponsor: Education Consortia, Inc.
Contact: R.J. Hampton of Little Rock Name of proposed school: Learning for Life Academy, 100 11th- and 12th-graders Location: 1102 Daisy Bates Dr. Little Rock Sponsor: Flightline Academy of Arkansas Inc.
Contact: Mike Wilson of Jacksonville Name of proposed school: Flightline Academy, 250 students in grades six-eight Location: Little Rock Air Force Base or nearby Sponsor: Gillett Civic Group, Inc.
Contact: Derek Menard of Gillett Name of proposed school: Gillett Heritage Academy, 450 students in grades kindergarten-12.
Location: Gillett Sponsor: KNOVA Learning Contact: Benjamin J. Lindquist of Broomfield, Colo.
Name of proposed school: KNOVA Learning Academy, 250 pupils in grades kindergarten five and expanding to eighth grade Location: Pine Bluff Sponsor: Lighthouse Academies of Arkansas, Inc.
Contact: Phillis Nichols-Anderson of Jacksonville Name of proposed school: Pine Bluff Lighthouse Charter School, 220 pupils in grades kindergarten-three and expanding to700 in grades kindergarten-12 Location: Pine Bluff Sponsor: New Education for the Workplace Inc. (NEWCorp) Contact: Kristin Mallory, Oceanside, Calif.
Name of proposed school: Arkansas School for Integrated Academics and Technologies Little Rock (SIATech Little Rock), 275 students in grades nine-12 Location: Little Rock Job Corps Center, 6900 Scott Hamilton Drive Sponsor: Prism Education Center Contact: Misty Newcomb of West Fork Name of proposed school: Prism Charter School, 500 students in grades kindergarten eight Location: Fort Smith Sponsor: South Arkansas Foundation for Education Contact: James Welch of McNeil Name of proposed school: eBlast Academy, 300 students in grades kindergarten-eight Location: former McNeil High School Sponsor: Success Prep Academy, Inc.
Contact: Kenneth Reid of Texarkana, Ark.
Name of proposed school: Success Prep Academy, 500 students starting with grades kindergarten-five and expanding to eighth grade Location: Texarkana Sponsor: Miller McCoy Network Contact: Tiffany Hardrick of New Orleans Name of proposed school: Miller McCoy Academy of Mathematics and Business, 400 male students in grades five-12 Location: Forrest City Sponsor: The Throne Room, Inc.
Contact: Angilynn Taylor of Hope Name of proposed school: Paragon Collegiate Preparatory Academy, 150 pupils in grades five-eight and expanding to 12th grade Location: Emmet Name of proposed school: Paragon Collegiate Preparatory Academy, 150 pupils in grades five-eight and expanding to 12th grade Location: Hope or surrounding area Sponsor: Turning Point 2 Associates Contact: Roland Watley of Pine Bluff Name of proposed school: Turning Point Charter Academy, to serve an unspecified number of pupils in grades kindergarten-four Location: 517 Cherry St. in Pine Bluff Sponsor: Valley Military Academy Contact: Rosario J. Girasa of Pleasantville, N.Y. Name of proposed school: Valley Military Academy to serve an unspecificed number of central Arkansas students in grades seven-12 Location: Little Rock