The charter school bills currently making their way through both houses of the Legislature are not a done deal, said education advocate Pam Shaw. As the bills pass through committees and floor debates, there is still time for them to change.
Shaw, a consultant with the Center for Education Innovation, spoke about charter schools during this morning's Friday Forum at Koinonia Coffee House. Several bills proposing a law called "The Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2012" are before the Legislature. Shaw referred to a Senate bill in the House Education Committee and a House bill that passed the House Education Committee earlier this week.
Both bills allow several entities to authorize charter schools, Shaw said, including a board appointed by the governor and other elected officials. Instead, she said the law should leave the job to a single nonprofit authorizing board, rather than to political appointees, because the board will have to make difficult decisions without being influenced by politics.
"They need to be independent enough that they can have the willpower to close schools," she said.
Shaw said charter schools are one tool for improving schools, but will only help if they're done right.
"If you don't do it right, you could do more harm than you can good," she said. "And I contend that both bills, as they are currently configured, do harm."
In addition to changing who authorizes charter schools, Shaw said she wants to see lawmakers get rid of the provision for virtual charter schools, which provide instruction online, in the House bill. She also said Mississippi should do a fiscal impact analysis to determine just how much charter schools would cost and how funding them could impact local school districts.
Shaw also said the legislation needs more specific standards for charter-school teachers and to make sure that only nonprofit organizations can run charter schools.
I agree with her that sounds like a big bunch of mess
- Laurie Bertram Roberts