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Jackson Leaders Disagree on Charter Schools

By Paul Boger | Published 15 Nov 2013 10:00am | comments
Mississippi's capital city is struggling with under-performing schools, crime and poverty. As MPB's Paul Boger reports top officials believe that education will be the key to fixing Jackson's problems, but debate still rages on how to do it.
 
Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba spoke to a gathering of more than 500 people yesterday, as part of a fundraiser to improve the educational success of Jackson's inner-city students.
 
Throughout the event, both leaders agreed that education was the only way to fix a number of Jackson's inner-city problems. But when the topic turned to converting some of the capital cities' non-performing public schools into charter schools, the two strongly disagreed.
 
Charter schools receive public money but are free from some of the regulations public schools are forced to uphold, and according to Barbour, this forces the two to compete for students.
 
"I think charter schools are a very good idea for providing competition." said Barbour. So that parents have more choices. Particularly when we're in districts where public schools are not getting the job done."
 
Lumumba, on the other hand, says he doesn't believe that charter schools are a magic bullet to one of the capital cities' biggest problems.
 
The reality is, I'm very suspicious of anything that takes dollars from public education." said Lumumba. "That doesn't mean that there isn't nothing that doesn't work, but I've found in the little research I've done I've seen just as many failing charter schools as I've seen successful ones."
 
Robert Langford is the executive director of Operation Shoestring, the group that held fundraiser. He says just having the discussion is beneficial. 
 
We've got some issues we've got to deal with." said Langford." we also have some real opportunities and some assets within the community that we can capitalize on and I think al of that was brought out in a way that was constructive and also forceful. That's great."
 
While Jackson is still Mississippi's largest city growing crime, low-performing schools and aging infrastructure has caused thousands of people to move out of the capital city and into suburbs.

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