OUR OPINION: Charter push needs time for reflection

By NEMS Daily Journal

Charter school legalization in Mississippi died on Monday, for the present, on legislative deadline, stopping a priority of the governor and most other Republican leaders in the Capitol.
Opponents of charter schools prevailed by effectively rousing their allies inside the Legislature and in the larger community of public school support.
However, describing opponents solely as defenders of the status quo is not fully accurate because many charter opponents also agree that regular public school performance has been too often inadequate, and sometimes a failure. Some opponents of the charter bills passed or considered this year would support more restrictive public charter school approval.
In short, public education as it’s structured now in Mississippi hasn’t worked for everybody. An alternative with potential for greater success, particularly a model focused on closing the achievement gap between poor and prosperous, white and minority students, is desperately needed.
The bill as it existed on deadline was mostly a Senate measure, amended by the House, and then passed a second time by the Senate.
It would allow local school board veto authority of charter schools in districts rated Successful, High Performing or Star, based on state tests and measures. It would not allow conversion of existing private or parochial schools to public charter status, and it would require a demographic composition in the charter school reflective of the public school district.
The bill barred “virtual” charter schools, which are widely suspect.
Charter schools would be funded from the same pools of state and local funding used to support non-charter public schools. Students transferring from non-charter public schools to charter schools would be followed by tax-supported funds.
While “not a panacea,” as Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves earlier told the Daily Journal’s editorial board, correctly structured charter schools offer an alternate route for the parents who want their children in a public school but with different methods.
The Parents’ Campaign, a major education adequacy coalition, believes that all chartering entities (schools and their management organizations) should be nonprofits, have a “track record of success” and be authorized by a single entity: the State Board of Education.
The campaign also notes that charter schools competing with failing traditional schools have a much higher success rate than those that compete with good traditional schools.
Proponents must convince opponents that they do not seek vouchers for private schools or plan a back-door attack that would dismantle public education.
Most of all, support for full public school funding under the existing MAEP formula would be persuasive.
Let the dust settle. Work during the off-season for a strong compromise.

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