OUR OPINION: Authorizer board needs balance of perspective

Gov. Phil Bryant’s nomination of three members to the newly created Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board has the effect of re-emphasizing that the law authorizes public charter schools.

Bryant’s three nominees to the seven-member board all have strong ties to public education in their work, in their professional past, or in their individual educational experience.

The authorizer board has seven positions. Three others will be filled by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and one by the state superintendent of education.

One of the most widely held reservations about any Mississippi charter school law is criticism that it would open a wide door and an easy path for creation of de facto private schools.

The authorizer board itself is on its own in dispelling that perception, which is prohibited in law. The board is empowered to approve no more than 15 charter schools every year.

Bryant chose former public school superintendent and teacher Johnny Franklin of Vicksburg, Teach for America teacher and curriculum manager Krystal Cormack of Clarksdale, and Chris Wilson, a real estate developer from Laurel who is a graduate of Laurel High School and Mississippi State University.

Franklin, who served as education adviser to Bryant and former Gov. Haley Barbour, will represent Supreme Court District 1, Wilson will represent Supreme Court District 2 and Krystal Cormack will represent Supreme Court District 3.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves will appoint three members. The Mississippi state Board of Education will make one appointment, widely expected to be interim state Superintendent of Education Lynn House, who has said she would serve if the board approves. All appointees are subject to state Senate confirmation during the 2014 session.

In addition, the law requires that applications to locate a public charter school within the boundaries of a school district rated A, B or C by the Mississippi Department of Education must receive majority support from the local school board.

The charter authorizing board also is responsible for overseeing charter school operations and deciding whether to renew or revoke charter contracts.

It is thought that a public charter school developed with the best model and as the law requires could create a learning situation advantageous to the most challenged of Mississippi’s students and guide them to increased achievement and learning.

The board’s responsibilities begin Sept. 1, so it’s expected that Reeves and the state school board will make their nominations soon.

Bryant’s choices represent a move to the mainstream, with widely varying education interests and with knowledge of innovation that works.

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