Nancy Loome, who leads the school-improvement advocacy organization, spoke to a crowd of about 90 in an evening session at All Saints’ Episcopal Church. She spoke earlier in the day to about 100 people in a “lunch bunch” meeting at the same location. Both events were sponsored by Parents for Public Schools and the North Mississippi Education Consortium.
“The for-profit school reform does not address existing schools,” said Loome, whose presentation focused on school reform and successful education methods used by other nations. She also spoke at length about charter school legislation, a hot topic on the day the Mississippi Senate Education Committee passed its version of a bill that would allow such schools.
Many of the comments and questions made by audience members were about charter schools, which are publicly funded, often privately run and free from many of the regulations of traditional schools.
Loome said her organization supports charter schools in chronically under-performing school zones. Its issues are with allowing charters in successful school districts and with allowing for-profit organizations to manage such schools, among other things.
“When you add new schools, you are adding new cost to the system, so it needs to be worth it,” she said.
Some in the audience disagreed, citing the importance of choice or bad experiences with traditional schools.
“Parents should have the opportunity to choose what is best for their children,” said Grant Sowell, the leader of Tupelo’s Tea Party, during the lunch meeting.
Loome noted charter schools educate only 4 percent of students or fewer. The focus, she said, should be on elements that help all children, such as ensuring every child has high-quality early-learning experiences, an excellent teacher in every classroom and excellent school leadership. Also important is strong accountability.
“This type of discussion will allow us to have an input into legislation,” said Jannette Adams, who was part of a contingent from the Columbus School District that came up for the lunch talk.
Michaela Gibson Morris contributed to this story.