/Charter school backers near goal

Charter school backers near goal

Governor. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, and other speakers spoke at the National School Choice Week rally just weeks before this year’s legislative sessions. Some of their goals are now within reach, even though the legislative session is almost over. Senate Bill 2161 is an amendment to the state charter-school law that allows students in C, D, and F-rated districts to travel across district lines to attend charter school in another district. It has passed both houses. The Senate will now consider any modifications. The bill provides that students who travel across district lines to attend charter schools in other districts will be paid by the Mississippi Department of Education. These payments and property tax receipts would have been distributed to the respective local school district. Students enrolled in charter schools within their school district will be paid by the district for the charter school proportional tax receipts and payments. Rep. John Moore (R-Brandon), is the chair of the House education committee and said that he believes the Senate will send a bill to the governor for signature. Moore stated that “for many of them” (D- or F-rated schools), no matter how much money is spent, the district still has a poor education. A charter school is another option. It allows parents to decide if they want to have another method of educating their children.” Moore pointed out that one of the major education bills that died in this session was a bill which would have allowed students from C-, D and F-rated areas to cross districts and attend schools in A- or B rated districts. Senator Gray Tollison (chair of the Senate’s Education Committee) and principal author of SB2161 did not respond to requests for comments. Grant Callen, the founder and president Empower Mississippi, an advocacy group for charter schools, stated that Empower Mississippi wants to ensure students have access to education options wherever they are needed. Callen stated that the Delta has a low student population, which would make it difficult for some communities to benefit from charter schools. Also, the community who wanted to establish a charter was discouraged by the lack of sufficient students in each district. Callen feels that supporters of the bill have also seen charter schools succeed in states where they were previously implemented in traditional public schools. Jackson is home to the two state charter schools, Reimagine Prep Charter School and Midtown Public Chart School. Callen stated that he believes Jackson’s public schools will see their test scores rise due to both the innovative charter schools and the healthy competition that we all desire the best for our children. Frank Yates, executive Director of the Mississippi Association of Educators which promotes public school education, stated that the bill would have a negative effect on revenue in C-, F- and D-rated school districts if it becomes law. Yates stated that money that was originally going to a student in a district’s public school would now be going to another student in a charter school if the bill becomes law. Yates stated that each public school student who opts to attend a charter school will have their money go to the charter school. Yates stated that money that would ordinarily go to the school district to support students there would not be there. Yates also said that he would prefer that the state fulfills its financial commitment to public schools via the Mississippi Adequate Educational Program. This program was created in 1997 and establishes a formula to determine the spending necessary to provide an education for all Mississippi children. Another supporter of expanding charter school access is Rep. Charles Busby (R-Pascagoula), who said that while state and local funds could follow a child into a charter school, it would not matter if their home school district meets the child’s educational requirements. Busby stated that it would only happen when the child’s educational needs aren’t being met, and the parents feel that a charter school in a different district offers a better education opportunity for their child. Contributing: R.L. Contributing: R.L.