Charter Schools Headed to House Floor | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Charter Schools Headed to House Floor

Rep. Alyce Clarke, D-Jackson, said research demonstrates that charter schools are not necessarily superior, alluding to an often-cited 2009 study by Stanford University that charter schools only outperform traditional public schools 17 percent of the time.

Rep. Alyce Clarke, D-Jackson, said research demonstrates that charter schools are not necessarily superior, alluding to an often-cited 2009 study by Stanford University that charter schools only outperform traditional public schools 17 percent of the time. Photo by Trip Burns.

Lubed up by the addition of several friendly lawmakers, the House Education Committee, as expected, passed its version of a charter-school bill out of committee this morning.

Questions from charter-school opponents--mostly Democrats and a handful of Republicans--pressed House Education Committee Chairman John Moore, R-Brandon, and charter-school supporters on why they believe charter schools are superior.

"We've tried to a capture the things that have made (charter schools) successful," said Rep. Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula, a new addition to the committee this year.

As was the case in the Senate, which passed its own charter-school bill last week, several members were concerned about the role for-profit educational firms would play in running charter schools.

Rep. Gregory Holloway, D-Hazelhurst, pointed out a provision in the House bill stipulating that only nonprofit organizations could operate charter schools. Holloway noted that the wording of the bill does not prohibit for-profit businesses from contracting with the charter schools to provide services or set up nonprofit arms of their businesses.

Busby agreed that a nonprofit could outsource some of its functions, including janitorial services, food service or, possibly, management of the school.

The Senate rapidly passed its own charter-school bill. Legislative Republicans have said they would like to get their long-coveted charter-school trophy through the Legislature quickly. The House bill could go to the floor this week.

Moore repeated that desire in this morning's crowded hearing, telling committee members that the legislative leadership wanted to move on charter schools early so lawmakers wouldn't spend the entire 90-day session debating the measure.

Rep. Alyce Clarke, D-Jackson, said research demonstrates that charter schools are not necessarily superior, alluding to an often-cited 2009 study by Stanford University that charter schools only outperform traditional public schools 17 percent of the time.

"I've seen more failures" with charter schools than successes, Clarke said.

Jim Evans, D-Jackson, asked committee members what public-education initiatives would come after the charter school question is settled. Evans pointed out the millions of dollars that Mississippi's colleges and university spend every year on remedial education because the public schools are not preparing students for college.

"We're not addressing the problem. We're kidding ourselves," Evans said during the meeting that vacillated between light-hearted and tense.

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