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Senate Approves Charter School Bill

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 22 Feb 2012 05:51pm | comments
Senate Debate.

A bill expanding the scope of charter schools in Mississippi is on its way to the Mississippi House. MPB’s Jeffrey Hess reports that the state senate voted to approve the bill Wednesday.

After more four hours of sometimes contentious debate, the Mississippi senate voted 34-to-17 to approve a bill easing the path for more charter schools to open in the state.

Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison of Oxford is the bill’s main author…He says expanding the state’s existing charter school law would improve educational outcomes and give parents and students option.

"Do you know why we are fiftieth in this state? A lot of it has to do with the fact 16-thousand students dropping out. This is an innovative approach to try to increase our high school graduation rate. I am trying to create a vehicle across this state to graduate from high school," Tollison said.

The bill came under heavy scrutiny from some Democratic Senators like Greenwood Senator David Jordan who criticized the independent 7-member governing board the bill would create to approve or revoke the charters.

"It’s all about the resources that are provided. If we fully fund MAEP then we wouldn't have this situation (is there a question, Senator Jordan?). my question is; Why are we putting so much trust in a board that you are giving flexibility that may not have adequate training to do what they are supposed to do," Jordan said.

According to the bill, state money for education would follow the student no matter which school a student attends.

Senator Kelvin Butler of Magnolia says that taking money out of struggling public schools would not help those schools improve.

"You tried to take it personal. I am telling you I agree with you but I am saying as legislators why we can’t make them more accountable. Rather than say 'we are going to throw another something else at y'all, now you have to do this'." Butler said.

"We do try to make them more accountable. The problem is, the framework in that instance is not working," Tollison replied.

The bill allows charter schools anywhere in the state, but the school boards of the highest performing districts would have a veto over the charter

The bill is being held on a procedural vote before being sent to the Mississippi house.



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