The Lens in New Orleans, which has been doing great reporting on the proliferation of charter schools, has a new report on the scandal over Einstein Charter Schools‘ failure to provide yellow bus service to elementary students in New Orleans. Toward the end, some important local relevance:

Einstein’s board also approved a resolution Friday authorizing Davis “to terminate all efforts for replication of the school in Arkansas where practicable.”

Board members and Einstein staff had a long discussion about whether to move forward with the planned expansion. Staffers said the board had to make a decision immediately so employees could make plans to move.

“At the moment,” said board president Chris Bowman, “we have, in my mind, much bigger fish to fry.”

In 2017, the state charter school panel approved an application by the Einstein Charter Schools to open a K-8 school for 600 students in Little Rock. The unanimous approval came over the objections of the Little Rock School District. The vacant Garland School building purchased by the Walton Family Foundation for $425,000 in 2017 had been the building they intended to use for their charter. (The building was never advertised in legal advertising by the district and the building was sold a day after the effective date of a new state law giving charter schools first dibs on vacant school buildings; the deal was kept secret until it was complete.) At the time, Einstein Charter Schools said it had plans to open three schools in Arkansas.


The planned expansion into Little Rock now seems to have been abruptly called off. Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key and Kathy Smith, senior program manager for the Walton Family Foundation, told the D-G that they have not received official word that the planned charter is dead. It’s unclear what will happen to the Garland School, although I have a sneaking suspicion that the Waltons will try to find another charter school to pinch hit. Just yesterday, the Walton Foundation announced that it is pouring $300 million more in funding for charter school buildings, including in Arkansas.

As for the bigger fish to fry mentioned by Einstein’s board president: Marta Jewson reports for the Lens that Einstein’s CEO Shawn Toranto resigned amid a lawsuit filed by the Orleans Parish school district because Einstein refused to provide bus service for elementary school students at two of its four New Orleans schools. Einstein instead provided free vouchers for children to use public transit. The reliance on public transit for young children saved the charter group more than $500,000 a year, but failed to meet its obligation as a public school, district officials said.


“Einstein Charter School leadership must make a decision,” Superintendent Henderson Lewis wrote in a letter to parents, threatening to revoke their charters in mid-April if they failed to provide the mandated bus service. “They must follow the contract signed with the district by providing the required transportation or face the consequences.”

With two of its public school charters in immediate jeopardy over the dispute, Einstein’s board finally hired a bus company on Friday.