Friday, November 18, 2011

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review

LITTLE ROCK – The state Board of Education denied applications from organizations seeking to open charter schools for at risk youths in Texarkana, West Memphis and Jonesboro. The Board also denied a request to open a bilingual charter school in Little Rock for Spanish speaking students learning English as a second language.

The Board postponed making a final decision on a fifth application, for a regional charter based in Marianna that would offer alternative education for students who have been expelled or have dropped out.

A new law enacted by the legislature earlier this year removed the limit on the number of open enrollment charter schools that can operate in Arkansas. The limit is 24 and there are 17 now in operation.

Act 987 of 2011 says that when the number of charter schools gets to within two of the existing limit, the limit automatically goes up by five. That means when the Board of Education approves 22 charter schools, the limit will go up by five from 24 to 29 schools.

When the application period opened 14 organizations wrote to the Board indicating their interest in applying for a charter school. However, not all followed through and only five official proposals were presented to the Board.

The Board determined that the application to open a regional charter in Marianna needs more work. It is scheduled to come back before the Board in January. The school would be a technical institute geared for students who have dropped out, have been expelled or have got into legal trouble. It would serve a five-county area in eastern Arkansas.

Charter schools are publicly funded. They do not have to comply with all the regulations that govern traditional public schools, as an incentive to experiment with innovative learning strategies. Charter schools often focus on teaching children from disadvantaged backgrounds, or children with exceptional skills.

Hot Springs Rehab Center Changes

The Arkansas Career Training Institute may be better know by most people in Arkansas as the Rehab Center. A prominent sight in downtown Hot Springs, the facility rises up the mountain at the south end of Bathhouse Row.

The institute will close its 24-bed acute care hospital, at the urging of federal officials who believe it would be more efficient for the institute to pay for medical treatment of clients elsewhere, rather than operating a full time hospital. The rehab center's hospital has averaged three patients a day for the past several years.

The decision means that the institute will no longer need to buy expensive medical equipment in order to keep up with medical providers that routinely purchase state-of-the-art technology. It also means the loss of 20 to 30 full time positions, depending on how much care the institute will continue to provide. It now offers physical and occupational therapy, in addition to psychiatric counseling, medical care and a broad range of other services.

The rehab center, which can house up to 320 people with disabilities, provides vocational rehabilitation to help people find jobs. A task force, with input from employees, will determine the center's new medical role over the next six to 12 months.

The institute is a part of the Arkansas Rehabilitation Services division of the state Career Education Department.

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