QUEST BUS: A modest proposal to insure a diverse student population at the new western Little Rock Quest charter school.

Yesterday’s sometimes heated discussion of the Quest charter middle/high school approved for Chenal Valley included a hopefulstatement by an official of Responsive Education Solutions, a Texas-based national operator that will run the school.

He said it was not unusual to have tension with local school districts fearful of negative impacts from charter schools, but he said his company had moved past that with partnerships with districts in other cities where it operates, including Austin, Texas.


I have an immediate idea for partnership now that the school will be opening. It would address the concerns of those who fear Quest’s student body will reflect the predominantly white, middle- and upper-income neighborhood in which it is located. The concern is that Quest’s innovations won’t be available to inner city kids on the wrong side of the achievement gap because Quest has no meaningful transportation plan or budget.

To be sure that a sufficient number of poor, black and underachieving  kids enter the lottery for seats in Quest, I propose that the Little Rock School Board aggressively recruit black and poor students at its “failing” schools to apply to Quest, with priority to children who qualify for free lunches and are not currently proficient in test results.


I propose also that the district promise to provide money to transport all minority, poor or  underachieving students admitted to Quest with a dedicated bus service. This will insure that Quest has a student body that reflects the look of the city at large and a healthy population of the sorts of children charter schools were established to help. Quest says it wants  to be diverse, though it can’t guarantee it. Let’s help them achieve their wish. Otherwise, we’ll likely  look back 12 years later, as the state Board of Education did yesterday at Academics Plus of Maumelle, and be able to only express regret that promised diversity wasn’t achieved.

Can I get a second, Gary Newton? And why not check with your backers at the Walton Foundation to see if they’d like to participate in encouraging a true laboratory of education innovation.  


Someday, too, Quest could apply to take over Henderson Middle and Hall High schools, with the students assigned to those schools now. Newton and Co. said that these schools were failing, dangerous places. It’s not the kids’ fault. Quest management should be able to solve it easily. Let’s get on with it. No need to stop quality education in the gated neighborhoods of Chenal Valley.