By Joe Rutherford/NEMS Daily Journal
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves stood by his personal preference of allowing all 145 Mississippi school districts the freedom to establish public charter schools in an early morning Tupelo address Friday but indicated he could again support a more restrictive bill as passed in 2012 by the Senate.
Reeves, elected in 2011, spoke to the Community Development Foundation’s monthly First Friday event at BancorpSouth Conference Center.
Later, he visited Joyner Elementary School in Tupelo, where students had written and invited him to visit their class. He visited Allyson McGraw’s class.
Reeves, who was state treasurer for eight years before election to the lieutenant governorship, said a strong push would be made to pass a charter school bill, which stalled near the end of the 2012 session in a conference committee.
The bill that was not acted on contained a local school board veto of charter schools for all districts rated Successful, High Performing or Star, the top three categories, the former equivalent of the A, B, C designations mandated under a separate bill and now used as a descriptive for academic status, along with the previous rankings. The districts’ veto power would have ended in 2015 under the 2012 bill that died.
Reeves said he believes the A, B, C, D, F rating designations have raised expectations in Louisiana and Florida’s schools, resulting in higher rankings.
“I believe Mississippi will rise up and meet expectations,” Reeves said.
Also, he said he thinks districts having the academic rank to keep veto authority, at least for a time, is a motivator for districts to improve performance.
Reeves said he supports the Building Blocks initiative for pre-K education as an affordable alternative to adding a statewide $250 million schools-based plan. Building Blocks would use enhanced and certified private child care programs. Pilot programs are in process across the state.