In a recent column, ("Why Charter Schools Died," Vol. 10, Issue 34, May 2-8, 2012) state Rep. Cecil Brown laid out the many flaws with the charter-school bill proposed this past legislative session. Indeed, he made it sound like it would have been an act of irresponsible deregulation verging on corporatism. But before adopting a better charter system, Mississippi should take a deeper look at the value charter schools provide. First, they are testing grounds for new pedagogical approaches. Charter schools can, and typically do, use a strong culture to implement more creative approaches to curriculum, rigid systems of discipline, and extensive parent and community involvement than traditional public schools. Second, they replace low-performing public schools, often (but not always) producing superior results.
Mississippi doesn't need its own charter system to learn innovative best practices; for that, we can just look over the border to Arkansas, Memphis and beyond. We can already study their most successful approaches, and we should work to replicate them in Mississippi public schools. As for the second benefit of charter schools, there is no doubt that some neighborhoods would be well served if a charter school opened in them. More importantly, students' lives could be transformed by the quality education they might receive. Yet, by waiting on charter schools to improve education in Mississippi, we are deferring an even more fundamental challenge: how to improve our existing traditional public schools.
Instead of waiting for charters to revolutionize public education school-by-school, let's take the lessons of charter schools and apply them across the whole system. What allows charters to succeed—passionate and empowered leaders, deliberate philosophies consistently applied and systematic outreach to the community—can happen in public schools as well. JPS, where I teach, just hired a new superintendent. Welcome, Dr. Gray. We may not have charters in Mississippi, but we need not wait on the Legislature to implement innovative and creative reforms in our schools.
Voter ID Argument Invalid
I just had to respond to Margery Freeman's letter in the May 9-15 issue (Vol. 10, Issue 35). Voter ID has been passed in this state by the voters of this state. Thirty of the 50 U.S. states have some type of voter ID law. What the uninformed of this state don't seem to realize is that the state of Mississippi will provide free Ids to those who have no form of ID. What else is so stupid is that when a qualified individual registers to vote in Mississippi, the county provides the individual a voter card with their address, the precinct they vote in and a voter ID number. What in the world does this have to do with Jim Crow? The argument is completely invalid. Who doesn't have some form of picture ID in 21st-century society? Only those who want to keep voter fraud alive oppose voter ID.
Michael J. Culver
P. S. I sincerely doubt you will print this message, your publication rarely if ever prints anything that is in opposition to your views.