Charter schools before House panel today

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – The charter school legislation slated to be taken up this morning by the House Education Committee gives A, B and C-accredited school districts authority to block them from locating within their boundaries and allows only 15 charter schools per year statewide.
Both the Education Committee and the full House have the authority to change the legislation, but Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, said Monday the proposal is written to address concerns of House opponents who killed charter schools last year.
“I think the bill represents a very strong bipartisan effort on the part of the House,” Gunn said. “I think it is a strong charter school bill.”
Passing charter school legislation is a priority for Gunn, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Gov. Phil Bryant, all Republicans. Last year there was enough Republican opposition in the GOP-controlled House to block passage.
Late last year after the bill died in the House Education Committee, Gunn removed a Democrat, Linda Whittington of Schlater, from the committee and replaced her with a pro charter-school Republican. Whittington had asked to be re-appointed when another vacancy occurred.
But on Monday, Gunn confirmed that he appointed Republican Mark Baker of Rankin County to fill a vacancy.
Last week the Senate passed charter school legislation that would allow only A and B-accredited districts veto authority. The Senate bill places no limit on the number of charter schools.
If the House bill passes, the two chambers will have to work out their differences. Moore said Monday he was “not rock solid” on the specifics of the legislation “right now.”
Both bills create a new governmental board to authorize charter schools. When asked why the new board was needed, Moore said the state Board of Education “needs to get its ducks in a row” on some other issues and did not have the time to deal with charter schools, which are publicly funded but operate outside many of the regulations governing traditional public schools.
If the proposal clears the committee, Moore said he hopes to take it up this week before the full House.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com