New Charter School Law Brings New Costs | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

New Charter School Law Brings New Costs

Former Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Earl Watkins said a new charter school law that both the House and Senate approved last month will carry additional costs to the local public-school districts, which already have strapped budgets. "These new schools will have a new list of bills, and when they come due, they'll turn to the local district for money," Watkins told the Jackson Free Press.

Awaiting a signature by Gov. Haley Barbour, the New Start School Program and Conversion Charter School Act of 2010, SB 2293 creates a new process for transforming some failing state public schools into "New Start Schools" and "Conversion Charter Schools." Charter schools, as envisioned by SB 2293, are independent of traditional school districts in some rules and regulations, with their own independent boards elected by parents, instead of appointed by a city council or mayor.

The law allows the Mississippi Recovery School District to act as a state body to take over habitually failing schools. The district can turn the failing school into a school sharing some charter characteristics, upon approval of more than 50 percent of parents or guardians of students attending the school.

Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, said legislators who are advocates of public education made a point to adapt the new charter-school law so that charter schools and public schools won't compete for the same funding.

"The state steers no money out of public education to these new charter schools created by the bill," Brown said. "These schools are not competing for the same money. In fact, one of the reasons we passed the bill we did was because there wouldn't be any additional money needed."

Brown added that the political atmosphere at the state Legislature made a charter school expansion unavoidable, so legislators "worked to get the best charter law we could that wouldn't affect public schools."

But the language of the charter law suggests that the schools—although independent of local school district governing power—will still look to the districts for extra funds when necessary. The bill points out, for example, that the local management board may extend the school day or even extend the number of school days in a year, adding considerable costs to district annual expenses. The district must also purchase textbooks and reading materials that may or may not be included in the textbook bundle already owned by the local district.

In addition, the law requires the district to contract a for-profit or non-profit organization that has "operated a successful public school in any state or the District of Columbia," to run the new school if the school board deems it necessary. Watkins warned that importing an organization to run a fledgling charter school will not be cheap, and that when the bills come, due the board will turn to the local school district for payment.

"If the local board chooses to go with an organization to run the school, you have to ask yourself how many organizations have been successful at running a school around the U.S., and how many are seated in Mississippi? You'll be hard-pressed to find somebody, so these organizations will have to transition into the state," said Watkins, who left his post at JPS last year to become an education consultant. "A for-profit has to make money, so there are implied additional costs that could eventually impact the district."

Another cost referenced in the new bill is that the local district board must provide the management board of a conversion charter school with the same legal representation provided to the local school board. Watkins said the extra work required of the attorney to keep the management board from making unlawful decisions could double the district's costs.

Many of the state's schools at risk of failure—and thus more likely to be candidates for charter school conversion—tend to exist in districts with low revenue, making the potential new costs even more daunting.

Charter schools tend to require from the students' parents an application for attendance, and don't accept every application. NAACP President Derrick Johnson criticized traditional charter schools, arguing that they siphon resources from public education.

"Charter schools undermine public education," Johnson said at a public forum April 2. "Anytime you use public resources to provide a quality education for a limited number of children and the rest of the children are left behind, you undermine public education."

But the new law does not create charter schools in the traditional sense. The new Mississippi law, forces any new charter school arising from the ashes of a failed school to enroll the same body of students who attended the school under the old school name.

Watkins said the design of this legislation offers legislators and parents a chance to truly put to test the charter-school formula: "We'll be able to see if it is truly a reform strategy because they'll have to use the same students in the district that they had before."

Barbour told reporters last month that he would sign the bill, but admitted that he had hoped for a different charter school law. "I'm going to sign it because I think it's better than nothing, but I do think we shouldn't have to have failing schools that are taken over by the state before you have the right to have a charter school in your community," Barbour said.

Previous Comments

ID
157188
Comment

Could the fear actually be that these schools could be successful? If YOUR child was in a failed school, you might be willing to take a chance. The upshot is, if your school is well run -- not failing -- you have nothing to worry about. This incentivizes administrators and staff to ensure that they do not fail and thereby INVITE a charter option. I have talked to parents with children in KIPP schools in West Helena, Arkansas and they are VERY happy with the outcomes and those schools are expanding. Rather than depending on the local district for money, many KIPP schools employ the unheard of model of employing a fundraiser who goes out and obtains private donations and grants to subsidize extended hours and other worthwhile supplements. Schools that produce children who are unable to read are the greatest threat to poor children. That is where the outrage and fear should be concentrated.

Author
CliftonWhitley
Date
2010-04-10T11:32:40-06:00
ID
157194
Comment

Clifton, You note that a charter school would incentivize public schools to work so that they don’t invite charter schools into their districts. I would agree, if we were talking strictly about a wholly self-contained institution such as a car dealership or an investment banking firm. Public schooling isn’t such an animal. The schools aren’t the cause of students not being able to read, but the illiteracy of a group of people is symptomatic of larger socio-economic and political realities that school “performance” is merely reflects. For every KIPP school you can cite as “successful” you should also note that they continue to exist in failing districts, mainly because the KIPP example is exemplar of why charter schooling is based on flawed logic when the argument is about district wide school reform. “Successful” charter schools supposedly offer innovation to the larger district. Yet, the strategies they use are not innovative, just impractical when is comes to larger school reform. To be brutally honest, the only “reform model” that consistently works in both charter and general public schools is developing a student body that consists of better students. In other words, tracking and segregating students by ability and access to substantial educational resources outside of the school. In Mississippi as well as the rest of the country, the “Successful” school districts are in more affluent suburbs, while the “failing” districts are in urban and rural blighted areas. This is no accident of nature, where the “best” teachers just so happen to be in these aforementioned segregated districts. When you have classrooms and schools where there is a greater proportion of students who are willing and able to take advantage of educational opportunities, you will have on average higher test scores, graduation rates, and overall student achievement. When there is a disproportionate number of students on the school roll who are ill-prepared and ill-supported in the educational attainment enterprise, you see the results we see in many rural an urban areas on MS. Charter school logic is flawed because it doesn’t address the issue of how to educate a student body that is disproportionately ill-prepared and ill-supported. It essentially cherry picks the best, most capable, and most supported students and concentrates them in smaller class sizes, longer hours on task, and in holistic activities that mandate parental engagement at the school. These things can’t (or won’t) be mandated for a larger population of students, not because it is not possible, but because the political will isn’t there to provide the resources necessary to struggling districts to design educational programs that would benefit there particular student populations best. So, I fret not that charter schools would spur competition that would in turn improve schooling as a whole, I fret that charter schools would simply result in the stronger concentration of underprepared, ill-supported, and ill-motivated students to languish in general public schools and leave those teachers and administrators out to dry.

Author
Renaldo Bryant
Date
2010-04-12T13:20:23-06:00
ID
157216
Comment

It is untrue that charter schools only cherry pick the best students. What are you defending in order to deny opportunity to poor children? In the Harlem Children's Zone charter students are selected by lottery. It is random, ie., not cherry picking. Please cite actual examples. Blackwatch, general public schools, children and teachers are ALREADY hung out to dry in the existing system that you all are defending. We are in a deep hole; why keep digging in the same spot? You state that schools cannot be successful except in the suburbs. That is mystifying. There are many examples to refute that. Here's a good one: http://www.bvblackspin.com/2010/03/09/urban-prep-academy-for-young-men/

Author
CliftonWhitley
Date
2010-04-13T15:56:27-06:00
ID
157217
Comment

I did not write that it would incentivize public schools not to invite charter schools in. I wrote that public schools would be incentivized to improve --- period. It is a principle that this country is supposed to be about --- competition. We are supposed to believe that fair competition is good and will usually produce superior results. If I am running against someone who threatens to outrun me, it should motivate me to run faster. They teach in business schools that you should incentivize the behavior you want to see. The question is: In the current funding model are we not incentivizing mediocrity?

Author
CliftonWhitley
Date
2010-04-13T16:28:12-06:00
ID
157218
Comment

Let's empower people by giving them the power to choose something different!

Author
CliftonWhitley
Date
2010-04-13T16:29:41-06:00
ID
157227
Comment

Clifton, I am not defending the status quo in public schooling. In fact, I am challenging it (charter schooling included) to reform itself to actually meet the needs of all students by presenting pedagogical and curricular practices that reflect the needs of all students in diverse communities. Your approach assumes that competition would solve the problem by making teachers become better teachers. The issue with this approach is that it assumes that the primary issue with student under achievement is teacher/administrator practice. Simply put, schools in the delta suffer primarily because teachers aren’t teaching and administrators aren’t leading with the best practices. Competition from a charter school would spur the teachers to teach better and thereby improve student achievement. The problem with that logic is that there is no model presented that shows that disproportionate poverty in a student body (and the attendant issues that come with it) can be over come solely by improved teaching. Like I stated before, the only model that works on a district level scale is to limit the proportion of your student body that is poor. Sure you and I can cite anecdotal evidence of a charter program that worked for a set population of students (randomly selected in the beginning possibly, but the ill-prepared and ill-motivated students are weeded out by the time graduation rolls around). This is why the suburban districts appear to provide better educational outcomes and experiences for students, the proportion of students in poverty is limited, thus the issues that arise in educating poor students aren’t as apparent.

Author
Renaldo Bryant
Date
2010-04-14T08:29:57-06:00
ID
157229
Comment

(Continued from Above) Your competition model has been shown to be ineffective for district wide school reform. A prominent example is from Mississippi’s very own Rod Paige and the Houston Schools (where NCLB was born). A 60 minutes expose’ a few years back showed that while he was touting NCLB for the Houston Schools, this so called competition resulted in schools steering low performing students into GED programs, and even just erasing them from the rolls altogether. You know why? Because the only thing that has proven to work on a grand scale for public schooling is to limit the proportion of students who are ill-prepared, ill-motivated, and ill-supported. All of the charter school, competition proponents in education never consider the reality that: A). we have charter schools in every major city in the country and we still see high drop out rates and low student achievement in these areas. Even when individual charter schools do well (which is about as often as general public schools), the methods that they use are already known to progressive educators, and are also understood to be impractical for district wide implementation (do you think that there is political will for, say in JPS, to have the school day for every kid be from 7:25 am to 5pm?). B.) the enterprise of public education is, by nature, not amenable to market based theories of efficiency and effectiveness (your competition model). The market says don’t teach kids who don’t want to learn. The market says trim those kids off the rolls, the expense involved in teaching kids with developmental delays or behavioral problems doesn’t make sense. If you look at charter schools like the KIPP program, you see that they do not teach kids with those issues. Someone has to, and that “someone” is your “underperforming” public school. C) the most poignant point about all this is that educational reform without community reform is basically an exercise in futility. Sure, we can cite anecdotal evidence of one school where they were able to graduate and send off to college 40 black boys that were struggling before (and thank God for that), but the district itself is still only graduating 50% of the black boys that entered 9th grade in that same cohort. Can we simply lay this at the feet of teaching and school leadership? Why in the world do we have schools with 1500 kids and 90% or higher of them are on free or reduced lunch (indicating poverty)? Why do we have communities were 50% of the adults over 25 don’t have high school diplomas? Why do we have schools where 80-90% of the student body comes from a single parent home? I understand we have poverty in this land, but the concentration of poverty is inexcusable because it is purposeful. To expect hard working educators to tackle this problem alone, while city planners, corporate CEO’s, and industrialists continue to structure a socio-economic environment that encourages and demands residential segregation along class lines to me is asinine. How do charter schools and competition address these realities?

Author
Renaldo Bryant
Date
2010-04-14T08:30:38-06:00
ID
157230
Comment

Blackwatch, you equate NCLB and charter schools in Houston. Why? They are apples and oranges. Your logic escapes me. You act as thought the presence of a fledgling charter school movement is the CAUSE of schools failing? Why are you so defeatist? Why do you assume that we cannot do what students need: extend the school day and school year. You say it is impractical. The white supermacists used to claim it was impractical to integrate and have poor black folks voting. We're eating in Cracker Barrel for what it's worth. It can be done if there is political will. How can our children catch up to the rest of the world when our school day and school year are shorter than other countries? You quotes about "the market" seem to be only rhetorical devices to obfuscate the fact that there are many examples of charter schools that take the SAME students who failed in public schools and raise their acheivement level. Do you say we can't educate children until we change their communities? That is just not true and our children cannot afford to wait until their communities change. We need to go ahead and change their schools. THAT will lead to changes in their communities as the communities become better educated.

Author
CliftonWhitley
Date
2010-04-14T08:55:59-06:00
ID
157231
Comment

Blackwatch, it would be helpful if you cited some sort of evidence for your assertion that improved school leadership and teaching cannot change the lives of poor children unless their communities are changed first. There is a wide body of research that shows that the most important factors in a child's achievement are teacher quality and parental involvement. You cannot make a parent get more involved. You CAN nurture and employ better teachers, better curriculums and make the schools more welcoming to parents and the community. THAT is school leadership and it has been shown to MAKE a difference --- even without changing the world first!

Author
CliftonWhitley
Date
2010-04-14T09:06:37-06:00
ID
157232
Comment

Here is a link to a good, logical discussion facilitated by a reputable organization (the Brookings Institution) http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2010/0318_education_wildavsky_ravitch.aspx

Author
CliftonWhitley
Date
2010-04-14T09:27:34-06:00
ID
157233
Comment

Clifton, I didn’t say that good teaching and leadership could not make a difference in Children's lives. That is evident by the anecdotal examples you cite and research conducted on so called “90-90-90” schools http://www.sabine.k12.la.us/online/leadershipacademy/high performance 90 90 90 and beyond.pdf . My point is that as a district wide, systemic reform model, teaching and leadership don’t address the whole problem with sustainably educating a district full of poor students, most of whom will be ill-prepared, ill-motivated, and ill-supported due to the deteriorated communities they come from. There are always exceptions, heck there were black millionaires during segregation and Jim Crow days, does that mean we didn’t need to end Jim Crow? What I am saying is that the issue with “failing schools” is more than an issue with educational practice, it is also , and I think just as (if not more saliently) an issue of community development. Though educational practice can and must be strengthened, to think that’s all that needs to change in order to provide every kid with a strong, equal, and effective educational opportunity is short sighted, and is steeped in thinking that wants to make residential segregation and the concentration of poverty more palpable to the very people it hurts the most, the poor, and disproportionately, people of color. Even the proponents of the “90-90-90” school reforms admit that the methods, while effective at raising test scores, do not totally mitigate the effects of poverty on educational achievement. The charter school approach, when done effectively, will only reach a relatively small number of students, and will not yield any systemic, sustainable reforms that will benefit the districts as a whole. Sure, a few kids will get a better education, and thank God for it. But as a district, we can’t lay our hats on a few new graduates; we have to seek out the best solutions for the most kids. That comes when we desegregate and break the cycle of concentrated poverty in certain schools. Walthall County just received warning from the Justice Department to stop segregating http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2010/0413/Mississippi-school-district-ordered-to-end-racial-segregation . Others will be soon to follow.

Author
Renaldo Bryant
Date
2010-04-14T10:11:14-06:00
ID
157235
Comment

I think this discussion is telling, and kind of in line with my thinking. http://www.tnr.com/article/education-the-wrong-track-2

Author
Renaldo Bryant
Date
2010-04-14T10:30:51-06:00

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