By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday he supports a broad charter school law that would place few restrictions on their enactment.
Reeves said in a narrative, “I support strong charter school legislation that has broad flexibility as to where they can locate and who they can serve, yet strict as to who is authorized to establish these schools.
“Those who wish to develop new charter schools should have a proven track record of success.”
Reeves, in his first year as lieutenant governor, unveiled his legislative agenda at a news conference Friday at the Capitol flanked by several Senate committee chairs he appointed.
Various groups support expanding the state’s restrictive charter school law. But some, such as the Mississippi Economic Council, have endorsed charter schools only where the traditional public school is failing.
Senate County Affairs Chair Nickey Browning, D-Pontotoc, said he prefers that approach, but “I will talk to my superintendents to see what they say. I really can’t see one locating in our area because the public schools are so good.”
Charter schools can take many shapes, but in general they receive public funds while operating outside some of the regulations of traditional public schools.
Other items on Reeves’ legislative agenda include placing limits on the attorney general’s ability to hire private attorneys to pursue lawsuits on behalf of the state, though he did not provide many specifics of restrictions he would support.
In recent years, Republicans have called for such restrictions, but those efforts were rejected by the Democratic-led House. With Republicans now in control of both chambers, that legislation is expected to have a better chance.
Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood has countered that all the information on his contracts with the attorneys is posted on his web page and that he hires the attorney who brings the idea for the lawsuit to him. He said he only hires outside counsel in instances where his staff is not in position to take on the case. The private attorneys are only paid if they win the lawsuit.
Reeves also called for limiting the issuance of state bonds and passage of legislation to require mandatory reporting of incidents of child sexual abuse.
A summary Reeves supplied of his legislative agenda touched on a number of other areas:
• Consolidating three low-performing school districts in Sunflower County and looking for other areas where school district mergers are needed.
• Expanding the state’s ability to purchase in bulk to include services such as waste management and accounting.
• Expanding programs that bring teachers to poor areas of the state.