House, Senate closer to charter school resolution

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – The House and Senate education committees spent Tuesday – a key deadline day – trying to refine their positions on charter schools in hopes of resolving the contentious issue during the 2013 session.
Tuesday was the deadline to pass bills that originated in one chamber out of committee in the other chamber.
So in general what happens is that each chamber puts its language into legislation passed by the other house.
But with charter schools, both education committees made concessions toward what the other side passed earlier in the session. The House Education Committee moved toward the Senate position by narrowly passing an amendment Tuesday that would allow students to cross district lines to attend charter schools.
Rep. Charles Busby, R-Pascgoula, said the amendment to allow students to cross district lines was added because “in some of the really small districts, if you take out enough students to make a viable charter school, it might not leave enough students in the traditional schools. By letting them cross district lines, it could help the small districts have a charter school.”
By the same token, late Tuesday the Senate Education Committee moved toward the House position by passing legislation that would limit the number of charter schools authorized each year to 15 and until July 1, 2016, give C school districts the authority to veto the creation of a charter school within their boundaries.
Senate Education Chair Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, said he believes the two chambers are “very close” to reaching agreement on legislation that would make it much easier for the creation of charter schools, which are publicly funded but free of many of the regulations of traditional public schools.
The schools enter into a charter with the state to meet certain goals and expectations.
Earlier this session after hours of contentious debate the House passed a charter school bill that would give A, B and C districts veto authority. The original Senate bill would give only A and B districts veto authority.
It is not certain whether a majority of the House would agree to give the C districts the veto authority only until July 1, 2016.
Some key education proposals survived Tuesday’s deadline.
They include:
• Requiring students to be reading on grade level by the third grade.
• Enhancing teaching requirements and providing scholarships to top students to enter teaching.
• Making all superintendents appointed unless people vote to retain their elected superintendent.
• Providing money for the state Department of Education to work with local groups in establishing pre-kindergarten programs.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com