The Mississippi legislature’s 2013 session is near and education seems to be the most talked about subject. I am happy that education is getting top priority and delighted that making public education the best it can be is being discussed. I sincerely believe that education in America today can be compared to what our country was like just before the inventions of the telephone and the electric light bulb. Inventors like Bell and Edison opened the doors to unimagined success that continues to drive our culture and our economy today. Innovation in education through people discovering how to better use our explosion of educational technology will bring fantastic gains in our ability to teach and inspire. What we have done in the past simply has not worked.
Tupelo’s own Sen. Nancy Collins has made extensive fact finding trips for education into Florida and Arkansas as well as speaking to educators involved with proven public charter schools in Louisiana and Georgia.
Every parent has a right to have access to a good public education for their child and they should have options. We need to dispose of the myths of public charter schools and look at the facts before legislation is passed. Mississippi may have the “educational” Edison or Bell our world needs. Let’s find out.
Counterpoint: James Hull
A successful charter school in Helena, Ark. which has an African-American population of 67 percent and a per capita income of $22,000, cannot be exactly replicated in a city like Tupelo, which has a 67 percent white population and per capita income of $46,000. The demographics are different, the needs will be different. So, even if the concept of charter schools is used in Mississippi, just like probably in Arkansas, one size won’t fit all.
I, and others like me, remain skeptical, especially regarding issues of diversity. There is the fear that charter schools will be used as a covert mechanism to further segregate student populations, not racially, but culturally and socio-economically. I know it is an unfair insinuation, and it may even be offensive. But it is a real fear. Establishing a separate type of school operation is counterintuitive to what history has taught.
Couple that with the existing financial woes of our state Department of Education, and many of us walk away shaking our heads, asking the question “If we can’t fund one current system adequately, how can we possibly fund two separate systems?” The only plausible answer is: Monies from an already financially strapped public system will be used to fund a more superior system of charter schools, leaving a lot of students behind.
In theory, charter schools are an excellent idea. But questions addressing where, and how, and under what circumstances they are established, must first be answered to the satisfaction of all.
That’s why, as a member of the Tupelo Public School District’s newly-formed Committee for Excellence, it is my hope that we can (1) emulate the charter school model and then (2) share our successes with other districts across the state, thereby avoiding the dismantling or diminishing of our existing state public school system.
Dr. Ed Holliday is a Tupelo dentist who has written two successful books. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. James Hull is an award-wining journalist and a political consultant. You may contact him at email@example.com.