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Charter School Bill Headed To Governor

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 03 Apr 2013 04:15pm | comments
Gray Tollison defends the bill one last time.

After two years of work, a bill to make it easier to open a charter school in Mississippi is on its way to the Governor's Desk. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the bill is one of the top priorities of the state's Republican leadership.

The bill passed the senate 34-to-18 Wednesday morning, clearing the final legislative road block before it can be sent Governor Phil Bryant.

Senators had hoped for a more expansive bill but Education Committee chairman Gray Tollison of Oxford says it was more important to pass a bill than risk a second year of failure.

"And I am reminded of that song, you can't always get what you want you get what you need. And this is what we are going to need," Tollison said.

A, B and C districts will have veto authority over charter schools...There are 82 of those districts.

Also, students will not be allowed to transfer between districts...two elements the Senate sought to change.

Opponents of the legislation expressed concern about its potential impact during 45 minutes of debate before the bill passed.

"I'll not quote the Rolling Stones, I will use another analogy. The camel's nose is in the tent,"

Senator Hob Bryan of Amory has long opposed charter schools saying they harm community unity and could be the first step down the road toward abandoning public schools all together.

"And I fear that this is the first step toward carrying out an agenda where we will replace our public schools with vouchers," Bryan said.

Other Senators say charter schools will cherry pick the best students and drain resources from public schools.

Charter schools are the most high profile element of a broad education agenda that passed in the waning days of the legislature.

Its success has delighted advocates in the capitol who were stymied last year.

Rachel Cantor with Mississippi First, a main charter school proponent, says this bill is just the beginning.

"I think any day at the capitol when you get 85% of what you want is a great day. I think children got 85% of what they needed today. And we are going to get the rest of everything in future legislative session," Cantor said.

Governor Phil Bryant says he supports and plans to sign the charter school legislation as well as the other education bills that have passed this session.

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Gray Tollison defends the bill one last time.


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