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Charter Schools Clear Critical Hurdle

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 02 Apr 2013 04:07pm | comments

Huge pieces of education legislation pushed by Mississippi republican leaders are now closer to becoming law than at any point in the legislative session.  A highly sought after charter school bill has passed the Mississippi House.

The bill, which is intended to make it easier to open a charter school in Mississippi, faced the most uncertain future in the House of Representatives.

And the Tuesday morning vote was close, 62-to-56, just two more than it needed to pass.

House education chairman John Moore of Brandon says the vote is the culmination of three months of hard work.

"It's the most massive piece of education reform since the early 80's. And I am excited  for the governor. His team has worked very hard on this. As have the Speaker of the House and the lieutenant governor." Moore said.  "They have devoted a lot of energy and a lot of man power and a lot of hours into it. We are excited that the house has decided to be part of positive history." 

One representative even came from the hospital in a wheel chair specifically to cast a yes vote on the bill.

The bill, which is nearly identical to a version that passed the house in January, will make it much easier to open a charter school in Mississippi.

Especially in D and F districts which do not have a veto power over charter schools like A, B, and C districts will.

All but five Democrats voted against the bill.

House Minority Leader Bobby Moak of Bouge Chitto says he is still worried that charter schools will drain resources from public schools.

"Any time you have a vote that is that tight. That is that contentious. I think it will take it a long time to answer that question whether it is good for Mississippi or not." Moak said.   "I think we need to do everything we can to make education better, but i am not sure that is the right path." 

The bill is part of a raft of education reform proposals that now appear destined to become law...including bills to hold back third graders that cannot read on level, money for teacher education, a pilot merit pay program, and state spending on Pre-K.

Governor Phil Bryant is excited by the progress.

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