We’ve reported about the proposal Thursday before the state Board of Education to waive the teacher fair dismissal law for all teachers in the state-controlled Little Rock School District, ostensibly as a means to improve student performance. It has supposedly deteriorated under four years of state operation. Pine Bluff, recently taken over by the state, also has a waiver request on Thursday’s board agenda.

For now, Pine Bluff’s acting superintendent seeks a waiver from the law that requires districts to hire licensed teachers. Reason:

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Historically, Pine Bluff School District has not been able to recruit and hire the number of licensed applicants to fill the number of vacancies throughout the district. This waiver will aid the district in ensuring that the vacancies are filled. 

The district asks for the waiver under a state law that allows any school district to seek waivers granted to any charter school with students in the district. Pine Bluff cites the Arkansas Virtual Academy, an on-line school that operates in virtually all districts in Arkansas. To give you an idea of how wide that law opens school districts everywhere in the state to a reduction of statutory standards, take a look at all the waivers under which the Virtual Academy operates.

Bottom line: The state Education Department continues to expand its endorsement of the idea that the way to improve students’ education is to jettison state standards, particularly those aimed at producing quality teachers — licensure, evaluation and improvement procedures, pay, etc.

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We have gone down the rabbit hole, Alice.

PS: I’m still not sure there are not more waivers — such as the fair dismissal act — in the offing for Pine Bluff. The agenda refers to the invocation of both the law pertaining to districts in distress and the ability to seek a waiver sought by a charter school with students in the district. The academic distress statute is listed on the agenda, with no supporting explanation. Are other waivers planned? I’ve asked.

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