Charter School Mania! | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Charter School Mania!

During yesterday's three-hour-long debate over the latest iteration of charter-school legislation, Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, frequently voiced his opposition to the bill.

During yesterday's three-hour-long debate over the latest iteration of charter-school legislation, Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, frequently voiced his opposition to the bill. Photo by R.L. Nave.

During yesterday's three-hour-long debate over the latest iteration of charter-school legislation, Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, frequently voiced his opposition to the bill.

"What's this mania about charter schools?" Bryan asked from the Senate floor. "It's as though it's going to solve every problem of mankind."

At the time, Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, was at the podium to introduce an amendment to establish special-needs charter schools. Watson said he simply preferred the charter-school model to traditional schools.

The details of the bill differ, depending on whom you ask. Most people agree that the bill establishes a charter-school authorizing board that operates outside the Mississippi Department of Education. The Legislature would have oversight of the authorizing board.

The bill will allow charter schools across the state. In A- and B-rated school districts, an organization seeking a charter would need approval from the local school board. In C, D and F school districts, the charter school could bypass the local board and go straight to the authorizer, made up of appointees by the governor, lieutenant governor and state public school superintendent.

Under the provisions of the legislation, students can cross school-district lines to attend a charter school, and the per-pupil government funding would follow the student to the charter school. A provision to allow virtual charter schools was stripped out of the original bill in committee. Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, said parents of special-needs children want an online charter-school option, and said that he would author another bill to provide for virtual charter schools.

After about three hours of debate, the measure passed 31-17.

Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, said that because a small number of charter schools would serve a small number of students, charter schools do not represent a radical overhaul of public-school education in the state.

Blount also unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill to prohibit charter schools and other educational-services organizations that contract with the state from making political donations to lawmakers. Blount, along with Sens. John Horhn and Hillman Frazier, both Democrats from Jackson, all voted no on the final bill.

"We're not transforming education in this bill," Blount said on the Senate floor.

After the vote, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who supports setting up charter schools, said the bill is a part of a large number of measures the Legislature started working on last year toward transforming education in Mississippi.

Next, the bill will be transferred to the House. A similar charter-school bill died last year in the House Education Committee, but Speaker Philip Gunn rearranged committee members to make passage of a charter-school bill more likely this time around.


johnlong 5 years, 4 months ago

Why is the legislature going to over see the new board? Why do we need a new board when the Mississippi State Board of Education has more expertise than Bryant or Reeves or the legislature when it comes to education?

According to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers President and CEO Greg Richmond said "the reason for failing charters is because the authorizers are making decisions that are too influenced by politics, faulty analysis, and bad laws."

An analysis by the NACSA states that between 900 and 1300 charter schools across the USA are performing in the lowest 15% of schools within their state.

It should be obvious that a state board of education has more expertise than in how to run schools than what is being passed by law in Mississippi.

The reasons given above by the NACSA president include (1) politics (2) faulty analysis and (3) bad laws are the very reason we have the Mississippi State Board of Education as the sole authorizer. The legislature can still oversee this board.

Where is the logic here? I can not see any reason to let the politicians hand pick an authorizer when we already have a board of experts


justjess 5 years, 4 months ago

The historical statistical account of the low performance of Charter Schools throughout the country should give Mississippi politicians reason for pause. My question is still on the table, "Why can't we use tax dollars to efficiently support and upgrade our public schools?" It seems as if this is another example of this state's rush to give private entities our tax dollars. This is insane; however, since most of the children in public schools are black, I guess that it just doesn't matter.

Just remember that as our dollars for education go, so will we see further deterioration of our communities. With more school drop-outs, crime will surely increase. We must STOP this unfair attempt to take away public school dollars.


libradragon76 5 years, 4 months ago

as an educator this is a great step!!! if this is done much like other states who have charter schools and charter school laws, this can be an aid to low income parents who have no alternative but public schools.
to the person who says this would hurt public school dollars, please do your research first. charter schools are typically established in districts that are not performing, it will make these districts see how to do the same work and do it better with the money they are getting. it is a way to call them to the carpet, so to speak, on their performance. this is something that low performing Mississippi schools fear because there has been no call to account for them and they know they can't perform.
we have given money to the situation and it has not changed so money is not the answer, which means something else is the problem. the question comes down to .... if your cooking something and you had fresh ingredients that still turns out bad then do you blame the cook or the food? the current Mississippi education system is the cook and the students are the fresh ingredients for those of you who are confused

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