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Questions Raised About House’s Charter School Bill

By Annie Gilbertson | Published 29 Feb 2012 09:37pm | comments
Charter school legislation brought into question at House Education Committee Meeting. Image by the Associated Press.

Mississippi is another step closer to a new charter school law.  The House Education Committee voted in favor of a bill that would expand the power to authorize charter schools to both the State Board of Education and an independent authorizing council.  MPB's Southern Education Desk Reporter, Annie Gilbertson, reports the bill narrowly passed out of  the committee with some troublesome questions still unanswered.

Historically, charter school legislation went to the Mississippi House to do one thing – to die.  But yesterday, 14 of the Mississippi House Education Committee members voted in favor of a new charter school law, a slight majority over the 12 who voted against it.

Committee members raised a wide range of questions during yesterday's meetings. Many were focused on money, such as "if state money follows the student, would funds be pulled away from one school and be given to a charter school if a student transferred there mid-semester? " It was a question that stumped the legislators and a representative from the Department of Education was called to answer it.

 MDE: “The short answer is I don’t know.  In a public school it doesn’t work like that. So if you have a child that leaves one public school and the next year goes to another public school, there is no transfer of funds."

The Chairman of the House Education Committee, John Moore, said many of these fiscal issues will be addressed when the bill is taken up on the house floor. 

Last week, the Mississippi Senate passed a charter school bill, but not without criticism.  The Department of Education came out against a provision that exempted teachers from being certified.  A similar provision was contested in the House committee meeting, and Democratic Representative Chuck Espy responded in favor of allowing non-credentialed teachers to come on board.

Espy:  “The charter school itself could easily have a doctor from the University of Mississippi who wants to participate who clearly doesn’t have that certification. But you don’t want to waist that kind of talent and let it slip away. “

Proponents of the charter school bill say the devil will be in the details, and legislators say they will thoroughly vent questions and concerns during debate on the house floor next week.

From the Southern Education Desk, for MPB News, I'm Annie Gilbertson.

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Charter school legislation brought into question at House Education Committee Meeting. Image by the Associated Press.


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