Charter Schools Bill Dies in Committee

By: Mike McDaniel
By: Mike McDaniel

A reform to Mississippi's educational system is now off the table, at least for now, thanks to a 16 to 15 vote Tuesday afternoon from the house education committee. Just one vote kept the legislation from going to the full house.

"It actually breaks my hears if you want to know the truth about it," said committee chairman, representative John Moore who voted in favor.

Moore, a republican from Brandon, says the vote came down to politics rather than the needs of the state.

"It punishes school districts that need help," said Moore.

The bill would have allowed for charter schools to set up shop across the state. Supporters, like the bills author, representative Chuck Espy says that would have allowed for higher classroom competition resulting in higher education attainment for students.

"It's not over. The session hasn't ended and there's so many more aspects we can tackle this issue on," said Espy, a democrat from Clarksdale.

Concerns over the bill and what might have happened prompted representatives like Pat Nelson to vote against the bill.

Nelson represents the state's most successful school district in Desoto County and says he's not opposed to charter schools, but rather hurting successful districts.

"This is not a bad bill, but if we had voted to take it to the floor and it had gone to conference it would have come back with the same garbage that we started with," said Nelson, a republican from Southaven.

Nelson says a conference would have added in elements already taken out like virtual schools.

Just because the bill is no longer a part of this session doesn't mean it's going away. Lawmakers expect it to be filed again next year. In the meantime, the state's top leader could put it right back on the agenda.

As one of his key initiatives, governor Phil Bryant say's he's considering to call a special session within the session to take up charter schools again.

"If it's defeated, let it be defeated on the house floor, no just by one vote in a committee," said Bryant.

Bryant says a special session will be a last resort. Meanwhile, the failed legislation could be attached as an amendment to another bill in the senate. If not, that's when Bryant says he'll make the call.

"We have a lot of people who are angry, frustrated, they're tired, it's been a long session. I think cooler heads need to prevail," said Bryant.

Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying he'd be working with leaders in the senate to come up with a way to keep the possibility of charter schools alive.

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  • by wayne Location: newton on Apr 6, 2012 at 09:26 AM
    Consolidation is what we school in the county has every thing and the other has nothing. We might need to get jessie and al down here.
  • by Anonymous on Apr 3, 2012 at 07:51 PM
    This is not about competition, this is about setting up private schools with public money. The method of selection of students who would attend a charter school is set up for discrimination. And for those children who don't "win the lottery" and get in a charter school, their schools will have less funding and fail that much quicker. Besides that, half of the teachers at charter schools would not be required to be certified, and no administrator would be required to be certified. Mississippi's education system needs major changes, but charter schools are not the answer.
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