Legislators moving forward on passing new charter legislation.

As was predicted shortly after the 2011 elections, passing a new charter school bill has been a top priority for the leadership in both chambers of the Legislature. The legislators are expected to pass a more robust charter bill, one that will allow for conversion and new start charter schools.

Last week, Senate Education Chair Gray Tollison hosted a hearing on the issue.  As with most charter school hearings, the room was jam packed with strong supporters, passionate opponents, and several folks in the middle.  Speakers at the hearing included…

  • Scott Shirey, Executive Director of KIPP Delta Public Schools;
  • Nancy Loome, Executive Director of The Parents Campaign;
  • Bill Wilson, Mississippi Economic Center
  • Forrest Thigpen, Mississippi Center for Public Policy
  • Tom Burnham, State Superintendent of Education
  • David Hansen, National Alliance of Charter School Authorizers
  • Rachel Canter, Executive Director of Mississippi First

Due to the importance the legislature has placed on this issue, “dissenting voices” during the hearing consisted of organizations that wanted specific limits on our proposed charter sector.  MDE recommends placing a cap on the number of charters that can be granted initially.  Both the Parents Campaign and the Mississippi Economic Center voiced the recommendations found in Blueprint Mississippi, which calls for targeting under-performing schools.

Rachel was the last to speak during the hearing, and she took the opportunity to stress the importance of creating charter legislation that establishes a rigorous authorization process along with strong accountability standards.  She also addressed the key points found in our 2010 charter school white paper, which recommends that our charter school bill should be…

  • Targeted – charter schools should be used as a school reform tool, with preference given to failing districts and districts with failing schools;
  • Rigorous – detailed application requirements should be in place, and authorization powers should be limited to entities with the capacity and expertise of properly manage charters;
  • Comprehensive – provide the option of chartering both new starts and public conversion charter schools; and…
  • Robust – charters should have real autonomy over budget, personnel, instructional time, and curriculum.  Charter schools should also receive state funding equal to that of traditional public schools.

 

MSF has remained activity involved this policymaking process, which we hope will be reflected in the legislation that will soon be introduced in both the Senate and the House.  We’ll keep you posted when the legislation is formally introduced.

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