LITTLE ROCK – Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin delivered remarks Tuesday morning to the Charter Authorizing Panel at the Arkansas Department of Education in support of an open-enrollment public charter school application for Einstein Charter School at Little Rock.
Video of Griffin's remarks can be viewed here, and a copy of the letter he sent to members of the Charter Authorizing Panel can be viewed here. Following to the Charter Authorizing Panel meeting, Griffin said:
"I was honored to speak on behalf of Einstein and the students of Little Rock. Allowing Einstein to operate in Little Rock will empower parents with more choices and provide students with a better opportunity to reach their potential."
A transcript of Griffin's remarks is below:
Thank you, I’m Tim Griffin, Lieutenant Governor and parent of two Little Rock public school students.
I appreciate you all just giving me a few minutes. I know we are dealing with Einstein right now, but I submitted a letter on behalf of the Einstein School, the ScholarMade School, and Friendship. I will limit my remarks at this time because of the schedule to the Einstein school.
First of all, I would say that I had a good friend in New Orleans. I have a lot of good friends down there. I went to Law School at Tulane and lived there for four years. I know New Orleans pretty well. I called Dr. Ron French this morning. Dr. Ron French is a retired physician. He’s been very involved in the community. He’s lived there, and I think he was born there. He’s lived there all his life in the city - not out in the suburbs. He’s lived in New Orleans, and he’s been a big advocate for the charter school movement. He lived through Katrina of course and he’s been there and seen what is going on in the inner city for years. I called him this morning and I told him that we’ve been blessed that Einstein has decided to help us here and bring some of their wonderful ideas here. And I said, “What do you think?” He said, “I can say absolutely nothing negative about Einstein. They are outstanding. They are fabulous.” He said, “What they have helped do in New Orleans is transform education.” I said, “Dr. French is it okay if I use your name?” He said, “Absolutely”. And I will tell you he has put his money where his mouth is. He is part of an organization, a non-profit, that raises money to help fund Einstein and other charter schools in New Orleans because they have seen the transformative power of good ideas.
It doesn’t matter where the good ideas are from. If they’re good ideas, they’re good ideas. And I was just saying to someone earlier because I’ve heard people say, “Well, this school is from here; this school is from there.” If we only have grocery stores and other stores that were organic to our state we wouldn’t have much of a choice in shopping. If we only had doctors who had grown up here we wouldn’t have much choice. That’s just a ridiculous way of looking at the world. They have great ideas, and if someone is hungry they don’t ask where this food comes from. There’s a need, and this Einstein school helps address it.
I want to real quickly address something. Some of the things I hear from opponents of this school or charter schools in general: First of all, in this particular case, you hear a lot about “Well, they take the best students, they take the upper income, they take the whatever.” Completely untrue. The focus of Einstein will be lower-income folks who can’t afford a private school, who can’t move to somewhere else. They want more choice too. My kids go to public school, but I have been blessed. I have some other options. Not everybody has those options. I want everybody to have those options. What if you could only have one store that you could shop because you were districted? You had to shop where you live. You couldn’t drive out somewhere and go to another store. That’d be ridiculous. The same thing applies to schools.
Einstein will bring an amazing capacity to individualized instruction. And let me tell you what’s really great: they have an amazing focus on STEM education. One of the things that we are really suffering from in the country, but in this state in particular is a lack of STEM training and STEM education. And yeah, you can train folks my age, but it’s a lot harder to train me. I’m about to turn fifty in a year or so. It’s a lot harder to train me and turn my battleship around than it is to inspire through experience a young child to just to explore world of STEM. They may decide to be an English major or whatever, and that’s great. We need those too, but we don’t want them choosing to be an English major because they never knew STEM. We want them to make a decision from a point of knowledge, from a position of knowledge, from a perspective of knowledge. That is why it is critically important to expose them to STEM at a young age. Also, STEM helps to develop the brain and thinking in a way that is different than other disciplines. They’re all complementary. Problem- solving. They have a record: a 100% pass for all the students in Algebra 1. They have a focus on STEM that we need in this state. So I welcome them with open arms and I say, “Please come. Thank you for choosing our state and our city where I live just a few miles from here. Thank you for choosing us over all the other cities who were begging for you to come.” We should be proud of that.
And let me say one final thing. A foundational problem with the anti-choice, anti-charter argument is this: It requires, it asks of parents that they set aside the best interest of their child who is living today in the hopes that decades down the road, the system might get its act together and provide for a child yet born--the education that parent would want for that child not yet born - maybe the parent’s not yet born. But it’s basically saying to parents, “Hey, I know you got a kid now, I know your kid needs the best education now, but if you give your kid the best education now, in twenty years, in ten years, when we might get our act together, you’re putting that at risk.” Well, let me tell you. I know it’s not just me, we all feel the sentiment I’m going to express, and that is that we are concerned about our child today. That is my obligation from God, that is my responsibility as a parent under the law, and that is what the love in my heart first and foremost would have me do. Take care of my child who lives today. Not some opaque argument about if you take your child away today from the education that may not be ideal, you will somehow put at risk the chance that we have in twenty years to get our act together and provide the education for somebody that’s not yet born. That’s a ridiculous argument. That argument underpins all of the opposition to choice today. It hinges on the future, with a recognition that things aren’t where they ought to be. Well you know what, if I’m a parent, and I am, the only thing I’m concerned about is today. I’m not going to sacrifice my child’s education for a child yet born in twenty years. My responsibility that’s from God and the love in my heart says, “My child is what I’m responsible for, not someone else’s child yet born. So, that argument completely fails. And it should be noted there’s no guarantee that in ten years, twenty years, thirty years, the status quo will ever get their act together. There’s no guarantee of that. It’s a new world, it’s a competitive world, we’ve got to welcome these folks with open arms. If we don’t, shame on us. Thank you all.
About Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin
Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin was elected on November 4, 2014. From 2011-2015, Griffin served as the 24th representative of Arkansas’s Second Congressional District. For the 113th Congress, he was a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means while also serving as a Deputy Whip for the Majority. In the 112th Congress, he served as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the House Committee on the Judiciary.
Griffin is a graduate of Magnolia High School, Hendrix College in Conway and Tulane Law School in New Orleans, and attended graduate school at Oxford University. He has served in the U.S. Army Reserve for 20 years, was deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Lieutenant Colonel Griffin is currently pursuing a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. He also served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas and Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Political Affairs for President George W. Bush. Griffin lives in Little Rock with his wife Elizabeth, a Camden native, and their two children.