JACKSON, Miss.--The state capitol is not generally full of lawmakers in the summer. In fact, the meeting room where House Judiciary A Committee usually meets is being renovated right now, so the committee is largely ruminating over the upcoming session, which according to the governor, will have education as a priority....
House and Senate Republicans alike have promised education reform and in the same vein have promised charter school legislation.
Though opponents of charter schools have included some Republicans and supporters have included some Democrats, the issue is one that is being pushed forward largely by conservatives, like Gov. Phil Bryant, who along with the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, recently hosted a forum that included former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is a national proponent of measures like charter schools.
Rep. Mark Baker, who serves as chairman of the House Jud A Committee addressed a report by the Public Policy Center that cited 14 failing school districts.
His plan-to "obliterate" such districts, "and turn them into charter school districts," he said.
"Let's give private companies contracts to run 'em for a year and if they don't get results, we say 'you're outta here'," he said Monday.
Baker said the administrators of such districts should be given carte blanche to do what it takes to raise the accountability ratings and to get scores up on standardized tests.
His statements come just as Mississippi prepares to see its first accountability ratings based on the A-F letter grade system for districts and schools, rather than a system that included ratings like "failing" "at risk of failing" and "successful", which many advocacy groups have called inadequate and misleading.
With charter schools likely to come up for a vote again this session, after failing in 2012, opponents are likely gearing up for another fight.
Superintendents and the Mississippi Parents Campaign have been opposed to the idea of allowing charter schools in all zones and, according to the Parents Campaign website, support only legislation that would allow the schools in consistently underperforming districts.