House leadership’s efforts on omnibus charter bill blocked

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – The House leadership’s efforts to advance an omnibus education bill that includes charter schools was defeated Tuesday.
Nearly all of the chamber’s Democrats were joined by nine Republicans to garner 60 votes against House Education Chair John Moore’s motion to send the bill to conference where House and Senate leaders would try to hammer out a final agreement.
Three Democrats and 55 Republicans voted in favor of Moore’s motion. House Speaker Philip Gunn said the vote did not change the dynamics since the leadership has until a Thursday deadline to try again to send the bill to conference or to pass it and send it to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature.
Gunn said he would favor sending it to the governor, but conceded it is unlikely the leadership can garner the votes for that effort. Rep. Nick Bain, D-Corinth, said the legislation was blocked because of the charter school section.
“Nobody sees anything in this legislation but charter schools,” Bain said, pointing out all of the proposals in the bill, including charter schools, already are in conference in other bills.
The legislation includes eventually allowing charter schools to be located in C, D and F districts without the approval of the local school boards. Charter schools receive public funding but do not have to follow many of the guidelines and governance of traditional public schools.
The legislation also would require students to read on grade level to advance past the third grade and would require students going into the schools of education to score 21 on the ACT and meet certain academic standards.
The vote demonstrated the difficulty leadership will have passing a charter school proposal as strong as much of the Legislature’s Republican leadership wants.
Rep. Donnie Bell, R-Fulton, who voted not to send the bill to conference, said he had concerns about not giving C districts veto authority and with the 21 ACT requirement for students going into teaching.
The leadership did send to conference two other education bills Tuesday. They would:
• Require the Mississippi Adequate Education Program funding formula for local school districts to be recalculated every year instead of every four years.
• Put into law the definition of how long a student must stay at school each day to be considered in attendance, thus, eligible to be counted by the district for state Adequate Education funds.