Senate OKs charter schools

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Charter school legislation, which has consumed much of the current session and the previous one, is now on the way to Gov. Phil Bryant, who has indicated he will sign it into law.
The Senate passed the bill 34-18 Wednesday morning after 45 minutes of debate. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the Senate’s presiding officer, has been an ardent charter supporter.
But the bill sent to the governor was not as expansive as Reeves and a majority of the Senate had wanted.
In negotiations, House leaders insisted on a more restrictive proposal, saying it would be difficult to pass anything more in the House, where members were less enthusiastic about charter schools.
Forrest Thigpen, president of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, which lobbied for charter legislation, said, “Even though this bill is very limited in its scope, at least we will now have the chance to show people what charter schools really are instead of the caricature that has been painted by charter school opponents. At that point, most objections will end and demand will grow.”
Nancy Loome, executive director of the Parents Campaign, had advocated a restrictive bill that would limit charter schools to low-performing districts, prevent for-profit agencies from running them and students from crossing district lines to attend them. She said the bill sent to the governor meets those criteria.
The legislation will give A, B and C districts veto authority over charter schools within their boundaries.
Bryant had referred to the charter agreement as “workable” legislation.
He said early he wanted the 2013 session to be the education session, and many education proposals are on their way to the governor,
A bill to merge the Starkville and Oktibbeha districts and the Clay and West Point districts also passed as the Legislature winds up the 2013 session, which is expected to end today or Friday.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com