Rep. Cecil Brown's explanation as to why he opposed charter-school legislation this session ("Why Charter Schools Died," Vol. 10, Issue 34, May 2-8, 2012) rings hollow given that he was the sole sponsor of a bill in 2010 (HB 30) that would have allowed charters to open anywhere in Mississippi, in any district, upon approval by either the state Board of Education or the local school board.
In addition, Brown's charter-school bill was similar to the bills taken up this session in that it provided for "a blanket exemption from virtually all state education laws," excepting those regarding nondiscrimination, nonsectarian teaching, student safety and other vital matters. Likewise, HB 30 would have exempted 100 percent—not just 50 percent—of charter-school teachers from teacher certification requirements.
All in all, Brown's own bill provided for a much less rigorous process for authorizing charter schools than did the charter-school bills taken up this session. But whereas Brown's bill died in committee, the charter-school bills debated this year were the product of much listening, deliberation, and give and take. I cannot speak for what accounts for Brown's remarkable reversal on charters, but it has become clear that when the opponents of charter schools call for compromise and delay, what they really want is to kill charter schools altogether.
Instead of more political posturing, it's time folks got off the fence. Either charters work (and the data shows they do with proper oversight and authorization)—and we should have them everywhere—or they don't. Let's debate the idea on its own merits rather than killing it with faint praise and false calls for compromise.