Are Charter Schools the Only Way?

I was recently asked about the passage of Senate Bill 2401 (Charter Schools Act) and I found myself pausing before I begin answering the question. First and foremost, one thing you have to realize is that elections have consequences. I think often some tend to forget that.

If you take a minute and look back, you will notice one thing very clear: 2008 Yall Politics: Senate Passes Charter School Bill, 2009 Yall Politics: Charter school bill passes senate, 2010 Yall Politics: Mississippi Senate gives nod to public charter schools bill, and finally, 2011 Yall Politics: Miss Senate passes charter school legislation and that is that Republicans, led by then Lt.Gov. Bryant have consistently pushed and passed charter school legislation in the senate only for it to die in the Democratically controlled house.

In my opinion, this 4 year span has given failing districts and those on the verge of failing, a sufficient amount of time to address and correct the specific issues which were contributing to its failures. Like most who pay attention to the budgeting process as it relates to school district financial allocation, we recognize that the lack of adequate funding plays a huge role in the recruitment and retention of quality teachers as well as the districts ability to acquire resources to educate its students.

Proponents of charter schools argue that currently funds are not being used efficiently and to a degree, that is a valid point. Throughout the delta in particular, you have situations where facilities built 15 -20 years ago to accommodate the school districts growth are now draining the districts budgets and resources keeping the buildings operational while the student populations have rapidly declined. In addition to this problem, most of these cities and towns across the region have seen equally declining citizen populations shrinking the tax base the district receives.

It can equally be argued that charter schools will simply widen the gap between the educated and uneducated in the state because it will allow for parents who can afford to send their children to the charter schools the ability to do so along with their tax dollars. This would adversely affect the already floundering public school districts and widen the disparity level between the two.

Being a product of the public school system, I’m not so eager to embrace charter schools as the sole solution, but the status quo, I readily admit, hasn’t worked. Sadly, our graduation rate is at 71% statewide and dips lower once you look at individual districts. A correlation can also be drawn between income levels, poverty levels and lack of parental and community support to the individual school districts where the dropout rate exceeds 25%.

In legislative sessions past, the Democratically controlled house acted as a firewall defeating charter school legislation before it hit the house floor. What a diff’rence a day made. Maority In Mississippi: GOP on verge of winning the House. The GOP majority are now pursuing an agenda that their electoral majority supported and voted for.

Because we failed to act and lead. Because we failed to become engaged and organized. Because we allowed our school districts to deteriorate and fail. Because we failed to support our Democratic nominees and elect a progressive house and senate majority. Here “we” are.

We had an opportunity to address this issue. Now the GOP has the reins and the will to address the issue whether we agree with their solution or not. What do we do now?

Charter School Legislation Backed by Top State Leaders

WLOX: Charter school legislation backed by top state leaders

Mississippi’s educational system could soon get an overhaul if a senate bill becomes law. That bill would pave the way for a charter school system setting up a seven member approval committee before any charters could be granted.

Charter schools would still be held to state standards and could have their charter revoked if not successful. There’s also a provision in the bill that would allow for the creation of virtual charter schools which means students would never have to even step foot in a classroom for an education.

When it comes to funding, both Bryant and Reeves say the money currently being spent on every student, should follow that student wherever they go. That’s about $9,000 per student.

3 Moss Point Schools Could Become Charter Schools

Mississippi Press: 3 Moss Point schools could become charter schools

Moss Point East Park Lower Elementary, Magnolia Junior High and Moss Point High School are under watch by the state because they’ve been labeled as “low-performing” or lower for the past two years.

If they don’t get at least an “academic watch” label this year, Laura Jones, who heads the state office of school improvement says local parents could petition the state board to turn them into charter schools.

School Funding Crisis Feared

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Clarion Ledger: School funding crisis feared

Charter schools, consolidations and other reforms could be ahead if lawmakers make good on some campaign promises, but funding could be the biggest hurdle they face as the state anticipates slightly less revenue in the coming year.

“We are rapidly approaching a school funding crisis in Mississippi,” said Tom Burnham, state superintendent of education.

“Over the past several years our community colleges have experienced booming enrollment increases at the same time as our budgets were repeatedly cut,” said Eric Clark, executive director of the state Board for Community and Junior Colleges.

Adequately funding education has been an issue facing the last several legislative sessions. The difference this time around is there is no firewall to stop what the GOP has in store for Mississippi’s educational system.