Charter school discussion not quite done

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Although charter school legislation was killed Tuesday in the House Education Committee, there appears to be a mechanism to revive it.
House Bill 1152, alive in the Senate, could be used as that mechanism. The bill makes minor changes to the state’s current, limited charter school law that allows entire schools that are “chronically under-performing” to be converted to charter schools.
Senate Education Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, may ask the full Senate to amend that proposal as early as today to include the charter school language that was killed Tuesday in the House Education Committee.
On Wednesday, Tollison said only “we’re looking at all options” to revive charter schools.
Charter schools are public schools that operate outside the guidelines and governance of traditional public schools. Supporters say they prefer no limits on where charter schools could locate.
If Tollison chooses the option of amending HB 1152 and is successful, it would go back to the House where his counterpart, House Education Chair John Moore, R-Brandon, could offer the motion accept the changes or “to concur.” If that motion prevails, charter school legislation would go directly to the governor.
The legislation defeated in the House Education Committee would have given local school boards in districts deemed Successful, High Performing and Star veto authority over any charter schools in their districts. And it would have prohibited virtual charter schools.
Some committee members who voted against the proposal said they would support similar legislation on the House floor if they were assured it would be the final version of the legislation. Rep. Pat Nelson, R-Southaven, who voted against the bill in committee, said he did so because he feared the legislation might go to conference where House and Senate leaders would develop a proposal that would be more far-reaching.
The defeat of charter school legislation Tuesday was a shock since the Republican leadership of the House and Senate and Republican Gov. Phil Bryant endorsed the concept. Bryant indicated he might call a special session within the regular session to focus on charter schools.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com