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Public Debate Over Charter Schools Continues

By Sandra Knispel | Published 13 Feb 2013 12:09pm | comments
Mississippi First executive director Rachel Canter and state Sen. Hob Bryan (right) discuss charter schools for Mississippi. Overby Fellow Bill Rose (center) moderated the discussion. Foto Robert Jordan, UM Communications.

With charter school legislation currently in both the House and the Mississippi Senate, the public discussion over its merit continues. MPB’s Sandra Knispel filed this report from a debate at the University of Mississippi's Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.

Democratic Sen. Hob Bryan of Amory and Mississippi First Executive Director Rachel Canter clashed repeatedly on Friday over charter schools in Mississippi.

“If what we’re talking about is different methods of teaching, longer school days, longer school years, different class sizes – all of those things are things we should be exploring.”

But, says Senator Bryan, one of the primary authors of the 1997 Mississippi Adequate Education Program, that does not mean Mississippi needs charter schools.

“We need to be doing a better job with the schools that are under conservatorship. There are plenty of things we could be doing differently that we ought to consider, but I just disagree that something with the label “charter school” is the answer to all of our problems.”

His counterpart, Rachel Cantor, well-informed, and armed with data, was weaving a subtle argument, telling the audience that one could be pro public schools without ruling out the idea of charter schools for certain parts of Mississippi, specifically areas with chronically underperforming schools.

The fact of the matter is – education in Mississippi and in America does not work for too many kids. And we can sit here and dream about what we should do better – or we can do it. And charter schools have shown us that some people in some schools in some states are doing it different[ly] and better.”

Audience member Courtney Washington, now a senior studying public policy at Ole Miss, attended public school in the Delta.

“Thankfully I was blessed enough to have a good education in my high school. But other schools in the Mississippi Delta aren’t as fortunate. I have multiple friends that just are not prepared for college. And charter schools need to be here to be another option. When things aren’t working you need to try something new.”

But Adrian Shipman, mother of a first- and a third-grader in the Oxford public school system is worried:

“It frightens me. I feel that there are not nearly enough restrictions. I am concerned about the for-profit aspect. I am highly concerned about virtuals. I do not understand how every child will be benefitted from having a charter school and a public school and I also don’t see that the funds are there. We’re talking about the same pile of money but now running two school systems simultaneously. It makes no sense.”

And so the public debate rages on.

Sandra Knispel, MPB News, Oxford.

Images

Mississippi First executive director Rachel Canter and state Sen. Hob Bryan (right) discuss charter schools for Mississippi. Overby Fellow Bill Rose (center) moderated the discussion. Foto Robert Jordan, UM Communications.


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