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Mississippi Charter School Battle Looms

Charter School Fight Looms as 2013 Session Nears
by Daniel Cherry
Mississippi Public Broadcasting
January 3, 2013

Mississippi lawmakers will gavel in the 2013 legislative session this Tuesday, and the debate over charter schools is likely to be one of the hottest issues of the session. MPB’s Daniel Cherry has more…

Those pushing public charter schools in Mississippi are eager for another shot at education reform, and they have some political heavyweights in their corner, including the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Advocates like Andrew Campanella, President of National School Choice Week, think it’s time Mississippi families have a say in where their children go to school.

“Not all children have access to a good school, and some of these kids are trapped in failing schools. And when you trap a child in a failing school, they’re more likely to drop out, or graduate without the skills necessary to get a good job.”

Charter schools are publicly funded schools, run by a private or non-profit organization…not the government. Nancy Loome, Executive Director of the Parents Campaign, says she supports school choice, only as long as the organizations running the schools have proven records of success.

“The idea that we should allow anybody to come in and have a charter school, even if the charter school is low-performing, just to give parents more choice, if the choice is a bad choice then I don’t think we’re accomplishing our goal of improving student achievement.”

Opponents are concerned charter schools will siphon off public funds from traditional public schools schools in dire need of money. But Erika Berry, with the Mississippi Coalition for Public Charter Schools, thinks competition will improve education all around.

“A charter school can help that traditional public school, show them how to best serve their students. ‘This is what we’re doing to really put our students on a successful trajectory. You can do it too.’ And I think that’s what we need to focus on and not so much, the school district is going to lose a lot of money, and that’s just not the case…it’s just not.”

Charter school legislation failed to pass the House of Representatives last session.