BOBBY HARRISON: Conservatives disdain more government, except for Charter School Board



The legislature creates a new agency and before there is time for the furniture to be broken in and the freshly painted walls to dry there are a cries the agency needs additional taxpayer funding.

Conservatives would argue the aforementioned scenario happens all too often. That is why they continually fight, they say, to control the scope and growth of government – except here in Mississippi with the Charter School Authorizer Board.

In 2013, the Republican-controlled Mississippi Legislature and Republican Gov. Phil Bryant created the Charter School Authorizer Board from scratch. And during the holidays, the Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee, a legislative watchdog group, issued a report saying the Charter School Authorize Board needs additional money from the Legislature to properly do its job.

Isn’t that the way governmental entities always work? They continually grow. That is what conservatives often say.

When the Legislature opted to expand the charter school law in 2013 to make it easier to open charter schools in the state, legislators and other school choice proponents said a separate board was needed to serve as the authorizer.

They argued the constitutionally created Mississippi Board of Education could not adequately do the job of authorizing and overseeing charter schools.

The school choice and charter school proponents were quick to point out that charter schools were indeed public schools – just exempt from some of the normal rules of traditional public schools as long as they met certain agreed-to outcomes. Yet, charter school advocates went on to maintain they could not be governed by the same state board that provides oversight to other public schools.

The state Constitution states the Board of Education “shall manage and invest school funds according to law, formulate policies according to law for implementation by the state Department of Education and perform such other duties as prescribed by law.”

Presumably, there was the belief that the state Board of Education would not treat the new, upstart charter schools fairly. After all, many public school proponents argue against charter schools, saying the institutions siphon money away from underfunded traditional public schools.

The nine members of the Board of Education are appointed by the governor, speaker of the House and lieutenant governor. Those officials (Bryant, Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves) are all strong charter school advocates.

Does anyone think they would appoint members to the state Board of Education who are opposed to charter schools? Or does anyone believe they could not ask, if they so chose, any potential appointment his or her position on charter schools?

Perhaps, Reeves, Gunn and Bryant believed it would just be easier to create a whole new, growing bureaucracy instead of asking such questions.

It should be pointed out the appointments to the Charter School Authorizer Board made by Reeves and Bryant have generally been lauded for their dedication and expertise. This is not intended as a criticism of them. After all, the Charter School Board has set such high standards in whether it would authorize charter schools that it is actually costing itself money and thus leading to the PEER report. The law requires the board to be funded by receiving 3 percent of the state funds going to charter schools.

That law in itself could be a reason to entice the board to approve more charter schools. The current board should be praised for not taking that bait.

And it also should be noted that in a $6 billion state budget the appropriation that the Charter School Authorizer Board receives could be considered small, even minuscule.

But isn’t that how all bureaucracies start out? That is what conservatives constantly preach.

Bobby Harrison is the Daily Journal’s Capitol correspondent. Readers can contact him at (601) 946-9939.

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  • redcreek

    They also lose their fear of big government as soon as the handouts start–didn’t I read recently that MS lege was throwing out any tax for infrastructure in hopes that Big Daddy Dump will GIVE states $ for infrastructure repairs?

    • TWBDB

      Yes you did. It appears taking in federal money is another item our so-called conservative leaders, political pundits, and possibly paid parrots in our online comment’s sections who have somehow gained control of true conservatism are schizophrenic about. As we enter the years of complete control of the State of MS and the Federal Government by these folks observe how quickly they’ll change their stripes. I actually do my best to try and refrain from referring to them as conservatives at all, in deference to the true conservative friends and family I’ve known and loved my entire life.

      Below our post colleague references ‘unrestricted dominance and control of every aspect of culture’ projecting the very spirit, context, and application of unrestricted dominance and control of every aspect of culture his ilk promote in word and deed onto secular progressive liberals. Don’t take it from me, read his posts. Virtually every sentence is a projection of his own political dogma onto others.

      On the current topic of education, on this creation of a ‘special’ and separate charter school agency in the State of MS, we may find this in application. I have little doubt the funding for this new agency would come at the expense of public schools. If that improves the access, quality, and content capabilities of MS’s schools overall, fantastic. But I fear, it is just the ‘unrestricted dominance and control of every aspect of culture’ our posting colleague mentions below. Time will tell.

  • DWarren

    I always anticipate Mr. Harrison’s contributions to the DJ with the giddiest of expectations. His offerings are often the occasion for a hearty belly laugh. If “a merry heart does good like a medicine,” I must confess that Mr. Harrison frequently prompts me to overdose. Today’s editorial is a prime example of mirth inducing politicized mental pharmaceutical stimulation.
    Progressives seek utter, ultimate, and unrestricted dominance and control of every aspect of culture as an ideological entitlement grounded–as best I can determine–in their arrogant elitist assumption of supreme superiority. Once progressives gain command of a social entity, anyone or anything they perceive as challenging their self-identified entitlement to lord it over society
    incrementally and in toto is labeled an insane assault on the very nature of reality itself.
    In addition, progressives go permanently mind blind to the hideous hypocrisy they exhibit when attempting simultaneously to disparage their political adversaries and to defend their self-identified divine right to reign sovereignly over each and every cultural institution. Progressives are the undisputed masters of establishing and expanding bureaucracies to perpetuate their ascendant mastery of cultural venues.
    Progressives seized control of public education institutions in the 1920s and 1930s and immediately implemented a precipitous decline in pedagogy that brought the nation to the low point we confront at present. Every attempt to “reform” the educational system morphed into another layer of bureaucracy with the result that the quality of instruction and learning continued to free fall from bad to worse. Whereas, children were once taught to read on grade level proficiently, now we peruse guest opinion editorials in the DJ lamenting that the third grade reading gate is too low and presents a conundrum because, if the progressive inspired practice of social promotion is ended; then, the public schools will be unable to accommodate the number of students who fail. (Which I find hilarious; since room for failing students moved on to the next grade through the practice of social promotion never seems to overcrowd classrooms. In addition, more time spent on classroom instruction and less time wasted on progressive indoctrination seems to be a solution to the failure rate that the progressive educational elite never seems to stumble across.)
    To tell the plain truth, Mr. Harrison’s editorial chiding “conservatives” for expanding bureaucracy with a charter school authorizer board is really only an expression of progressive disgust at the very idea of public schools beyond the reach of progressive control and mismanagement. Evidently, progressives demand that students remain in failing public schools so that they may indoctrinate them as cookie cutter leftists. Progressives don’t care if kids can’t read, write, or do mathematics; so long as kids absorb a sickening dose of radical leftist progressive ideology. That is the real reason for the progressive kneejerk opposition to charter schools.

  • DownGoesBrown

    Good article. Those conservative principles in regards to education and high standards seemed to go MIA when the state’s charter schools scored F’s on state testing this past year. I recall a college-dropout-turned-house-education-chairman claiming charter schools were “beating the crap out of public schools” before those grades were released.

    State charter schools have cited a lack of classroom resources (read: hiring certified teachers) as a reason for asking the state for more funds. Irony can be a cruel female dog sometimes.