Several States Move to Lift Charter School Approval Laws

After Mississippi’s Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison’s proposed charter school bill passed, it was held on a motion to reconsider. Now, senators will vote again on to decide whether or not allow charter schools in the state.

The group debated Senate Bill 2401 for almost five hours Wednesday before passing it 34-17. The bill was held, however, after senators raised questions over accountability, funding and fairness of adding charter schools to a system where resources already are tight, writes Marquita Brown at the Clarion Ledger.

However, Tollison, who was the principal author of the bill, says that the scarce resources could be used more efficiently. He claims that money is not being used efficiently in the public school system.

Mississippi currently has a graduation rate of around 71 percent. The state’s completion rate, which includes students who do not receive a traditional diploma, is 78.6 percent, says the state Department of Education.

Nancy Loome, executive director of The Parents’ Campaign, said:

“We have some areas where we have consistently graduated children who are undereducated and who are not employable. And that has been the primary impediment to our success as a state.

“We have a golden opportunity to really focus some resources in a way that could change fairly dramatically the outcomes in those communities.”

She believes that Tollison’s bill is misdirected and “this whole idea of providing more choices to children who are already being educated well,” is not correct in its focus.

Senate Bill 2401 would allow for new start schools and for existing public schools to be converted into charter schools. However, Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, wants clarification on the types of rules and regulations school districts are under from which charter schools need freedom.

“Why don’t we give public schools the same freedom?” Bryan asked.

“I just am very, very troubled that people who live in a certain school district who tax themselves to support that district have to send their tax money someplace else because some charter school is set up.”

Critics say charters leech money from public schools and draw away higher performing students.

This comes as lawmakers in Idaho also voted to support a measure that would lift the state’s cap on charter schools while also allowing more than one to open within the boundaries of a traditional school district each year, writes the Associated Press.

Proponents of the bill say that Idaho is being damaged by an out-of-date law and the 7,000 students on charter  school waiting lists are being blocked from going to the schools of their choice.

Public schools chief of staff Luci Willits said:

“Idaho’s charter school law is behind.

“It’s not seen as innovative and it’s not seen as progressive.”

The move, supported by Tamara Baysinger and the state’s Public Charter School Commission, came despite opposition from the statewide teachers union, the Idaho School Boards Association and the Idaho Association of School Administrators.