5 organizations seeking to establish open-enrollment charter schools in Arkansas for 2016-2017

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Six new publicly funded, independently operated charter schools have been proposed for five Arkansas communities for the 2016-2017 school year.

Five organizations applied to the Arkansas Department of Education by the deadline to open the locations in Little Rock, Fort Smith, Bentonville, Redfield and Scott. That's fewer than officials initially anticipated, as 12 organizations sent letters to the department in June stating their intentions to submit applications to open 17 charter schools.

Education department spokeswoman Kimberly Friedman told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1IS7tKG ) that agency employees don't attempt to track why an organization that sends a letter of intent doesn't follow up with a full application.

"There are a variety of reasons," Friedman said. "Sometimes they decide to ask instead for an amendment to an existing school charter. Sometimes after they attend our applicant workshop, they decide this isn't the route they want to go."

The charter school applications will be evaluated and acted on by the Education Department's Charter Authorizing Panel at hearings in October. Charter school planners and the school districts in which the proposed schools would be placed can appeal the panel's decisions to the state Board of Education, which also can review a charter panel decision on its own initiative.

All six proposed schools could be approved and awarded charters for the 2016-17 school year because language in state law enabled the old, long-standing cap of 24 charter schools to be increased to 29.

There already are 22 charter schools or charter school systems approved for operation in the coming 2015-16 school year, making seven charters available for new schools.

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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