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.