By Sen. Hob Bryan
This is the most dangerous week of the legislative session for supporters of public schools. The charter school cult has managed to get several bills almost through the process and into conference committees. In violation of legislative rules, these committees are meeting in secret. Literally at any minute, these committees can file a conference report which will be voted on in less than 24 hours, and there is no meaningful limit to what the reports can contain.
The conference reports will be as drastic as possible. From the begining of this year’s debate, some charter school supporters have been frank enough to say they really support vouchers, but they understand they don’t have the votes this year. Others are more careful in their comments.
All charter school proposals would allow any school age child in the state to attend any charter school anywhere in the state. That charter school would receive the state funds which otherwise would go to the child’s local school district. It would also receive some of the local property tax dollars from the local district.
For example, Amory residents impose a property tax on themselves to support the Amory schools. This scheme would force the Amory school district to send some of those property taxes to the charter school somewhere else in the state. And – seriously – many charter schools across the nation are run by an outfit from Turkey.
Despite endless entreaties for one of the magic charter school operations to take over an entire school district, there have been no takers. Simply put, charter schools must have public schools so they can leave the difficult students in them and expel their difficult students to them.
Most charter school legislation would allow for-profit corporations to run charter schools. They would take charter schools out from under the state board of education, establishing yet another state agency to authorize them. Some proposals provide for online schools. That means local property tax dollars and state dollars would be sent to some corporation attempting to run a public school over the Internet.
Meanwhile other legislation looms: to gut the adequate education formula, to allow children to transfer out of public schools to private schools, to micromanage the state department of education and local schools themselves and to allow tax credits for contributions to private schools. That last proposal would mean a taxpayer could pay his state tax bill to a private school instead of to the state of Mississippi.
Supporters of public education should act now. They should contact their legislators – House members in particular – and implore them to vote against these last-minute conference reports which have been prepared in secret, and which will be presented to legislators with a demand for an immediate vote. If these radical education proposals are so good, they wouldn’t have to be rushed through at the last minute.
HOB BRYAN, a Democrat, is a is a state senator from Amory representing Monroe, Lee and Itawamba counties. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to him at Box 75, Amory, MS 38821. Call him at (601) 359-3770.