Charter bill headed for talks

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – The House sent charter school legislation to conference Monday, meaning House and Senate leaders will have to meet to work out the differences between the two chambers on the contentious issue.
Other key education proposals also appear headed to conference this week.
The House had the option to concur in the Senate proposal to strengthen the state’s charter school law and send the legislation to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature. But instead House Education Chair John Moore, R-Brandon, invited conference. That motion passed with no debate.
In a session where several education proposals are alive in more than one bill, there is another bill pending on the House calendar that the full chamber could send to the governor instead of inviting conference. That omnibus bill includes charter schools, enhanced standards for teachers and a provision to require most students to read on grade level before leaving the third grade.
Earlier, Moore said he anticipated all major education proposals to be sent to conference instead of being passed directly to the governor. But on Monday, he was hesitant to say what will happen to the omnibus bill.
He has until March 28 to try to get the votes in the House to send the bill to the governor, to send it to conference or to let it die on the calendar.
“The key is that everything is alive and well right now,” Moore said.
Charter schools has been one of the more contentious education issues this session. Charter schools receive public funds but are exempt from many of the guidelines governing traditional public schools. In return, they agree to meet predetermined academic goals.
On Monday, the House, on a recommendation from Moore, also sent to conference legislation that included much of Bryant’s Education Works agenda, including the requirements for reading on grade level by the third grade and the enhanced standards for students entering schools of education.
Other education proposals likely to go to conference this week for negotiations include:
• A pre-school program developed under auspices of the Department of Education.
• School safety. The House wants to arm school employees while the Senate wants to help local districts place law enforcement in the schools.
• Mergers of Oktibbeha and Starkville school districts and Clay and West Point schools districts.
• Appointed superintendents. The House wants people in districts with elected superintendents to vote on whether to change to an appointed superintendent while the Senate wants an election only if voters petition for it.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com