Charter schools move forward in Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss.—Mississippi is one step closer to allowing charter schools to open in the state after the Senate Education Committee approved a charter school bill on Tuesday.

Update

On Wednesday, after more than three hours of debate, the Mississippi Senate passed their version of the charter school bill. Lawmakers approved an amendment that will allow a charter to be revoked if the school receives an “F” rating by the state for two consecutive years, instead of the original three year provision. The bill will now move to the House, which is where similar charter school legislation died in 2012. Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves told Mississippi Public Broadcasting that he is confident representatives will support charter schools. “I think as the public gets more and more engaged and more and more involved in this debate, that the members of the House will step up and do the right thing for kids in Mississippi,” Reeves said.

The bill would allow the publicly funded, privately run schools to open in districts that have been rated poorly by the state, and would give highly rated districts the power to approve charter school applications in their areas.

Committee Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, told committee members that the bill is essentially the framework from last year’s contentious charter school fight. That proposal failed by one vote after five Republicans in the House Education Committee broke rank and voted against the bill.

This year’s proposal also renewed debate over a provision that would allow 25 percent of teachers in charter schools to be exempt from Mississippi teacher certification standards. These teachers must hold a bachelors degree, take a subject matter competency test, and complete an alternative certification program within three years.

That provision brought opposition from State Senator David Jordan, a retired teacher from Greenwood, a town in the Mississippi Delta. “This situation would be worse than the public schools that we’re trying to change,” Jordan told the committee. “If a person has a bachelors degree…in business administration, and you need him to teach chemistry, do you think he’d be prepared to do so?”

The battle over charter schools in Mississippi is nothing new for lawmakers. There have been five attempts in the past five years to introduce charter school legislation. Supporters say the schools could improve education in a state with the nation’s highest child poverty rate, and some of the lowest test scores. But opponents of the schools say that they will only reach a small number of students, and could further segregate state schools.

Students attend a summer session at Lyon Elementary School near the city of Clarksdale in the Mississippi Delta. School districts throughout the state could see increased competition from charter schools if a controversial bill passes the Mississippi legislature this session. (Photo by Jackie Mader)

Students attend a summer session at Lyon Elementary School near the city of Clarksdale in the Mississippi Delta. School districts throughout the state could see increased competition from charter schools if a controversial bill passes the Mississippi legislature this session. (Photo by Jackie Mader)

Mississippi already has a charter law which is so restrictive that no charter schools have opened,

Some opponents are also skeptical of for-profit charter schools and virtual charter schools.  The charter school bill included a provision that would have allowed up to three online charter schools to operate in the state, but it was stricken after Senator David Blount, D-Jackson, proposed an amendment to remove virtual schools from the bill. “Virtual charter schools are not successful at educating children as efficiently as other schools,” said Blount, to The Hechinger Report. “Children need supervision, particularly underserved students need supervision from teachers.”

The bill will now move before the full Senate, where the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports it could be considered as early as Wednesday.


POSTED BY ON January 16, 2013

Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Post a Comment

Renee Moore

There are so many unanswered questions here in MS about charter schools, but those backing this idea are determined to ram it through (State Senate just passed the bill today). For one, if the legislature has been unwilling and unable to fully fund their own MAEP formula for public schools for years, why shouldn’t people be skeptical of how the charters will be funded? Another contradiction: The state has been putting pressure on its colleges of teacher education to tighten what students have to do to earn teacher certification; but this legislation would allow charters to hire persons with no preparation as teachers of students, yet give them the same pay and benefits as those who have worked to become certified?

C. F. Redmon

OPPONENT OF CHARTER SCHOOLS

Give the faling Public schools the same resources as the Charter schools and the “so-called” passing school. Most of the public schools are not fit to educate our children. These schools are very old, improperly ventilated with dysfunctional air conditioning and heating systems, etc. The public schools do not have updated text books, technology, and academic tools to produce outstanding students. The teachers do not have finances to provide the students with updated teaching materials. Therefore, the students attending the public school are not exposed to the questions given on the MCT2 test. Help our school by given us the necessary tools to produce outstanding, academic students.

[...] Senate is expected to vote today on a House-Senate agreement of a charter school bill, which passed the House on Tuesday. The bill allows charter schools to open in low-performing [...]

Homeschool mom

AWAITING CHARTER SCHOOL IN MISSISSIPPI

As a current user of a tuition-free online charter elementary school, homeschool mom, and former teacher who is moving to MS in a few months, I am saddened to learn that MS hasn’t jumped on board with tuition-free public charter school education. My alternative is to homeschool in a more traditional way, which I will do, but I have to say that I am weary my children will miss much of what they would otherwise learn if MVPS was available for all grades K-12 rather than merely for high school students. Especially at the lower elementary level, online charter schools resemble homeschooling in that the “learning coach”/parent does most of the teaching while the charter school “teacher” mainly supports the learning coach, keeps records, verifies adequate learning progress, and facilitates extra-curricular activities for his/her students. My children have learned more in the last two years (kindergarten, first, second grade) at home using the online charter school than my seventh grade student who attends public school. Literally! My second grader reads better and has retained more history, music, art, and science than my seventh grader! That being said, homeschool and online charter school doesnt work for everyone or every parent/child combination. (Hence my seventh grader in public school) but without the OPTION, I am seriously saddened and scared for the next years educational journey for my two younger students.

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