LITTLE ROCK, AR -- Every year since opening in 2008, eSTEM has grown by leaps and bounds. The school now has 1470 students K through 12th grade. CEO John Bacon said the charter school gives parents hungry for a choice a place to send their kids.
"Our focus is totally on children and what's in the best interest of our students and how we help our students succeed," Bacon said.
Supporters of school choice like Bacon would like to see the passage of HB 1040, which would create a charter school commission to oversee the opening of more charter schools. Right now, the state education department decides each charter request individually.
"We've turned them into instruments of choice and instruments of competition. That's not what was envisioned to be the case," State Senator Joyce Elliott (D-District 31) said.
Elliott wants better schools but believes creating a charter school commission would take the focus away from traditional public schools. Plus, with Arkansas ranking higher than most states in education, Elliott predicts allowing a mass exodus of students to charter schools would hurt local districts.
"That's not even to suggest that there aren't things we can't do better because we absolutely do, but to disrupt what we're doing now as we're moving ahead I think would be a mistake," Elliott said.
Bacon said if nothing is done, so many children will be left out. He argued that not only hurts the students, but our nation.