We spoke with House Education Chairman John Moore. He said charter schools will be one of the main pushed coming before lawmakers. Both Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves have been touting the idea for months, visiting charter schools in other states and even holding a forum featuring former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who instituted education reforms in his state.
Moore outlined other reforms.
“We’re trying to encourage more people to go into the teaching profession-the higher ACT students. We’re wanting to encourage them through some system of scholarships,” he said. “We’ll be looking at the structure of how our superintendents are chosen in Mississippi. We’ll be looking at changes in how school boards are dealt with.”
Moore said the House would also be considering other items favored by the governor.
“I know he’s big on performance-based pay for teachers. We will look at that very carefully. As long as it rewards our excellent teachers financially, I’m all for it.”
We also spoke with Kevin Gilbert, president of the Mississippi Assoc. of Educators. That group is not only opposed to the charter school bill as it is currently planned, but has serious reservations about many of the other reforms being considered.
Gilbert said the current charter school language is too limited.
“If our goal is to try to provide a better option for our students to be successful, we really need to make sure that a bill is established that would create that purpose and not totally destroy the public education system in the State of Mississippi,” he said.
Gilbert said a good charter school bill would provide for the establishment of best practices and would not include a lottery system for choosing who goes to the schools.
Sen. Hob Bryan (D-Amory) caused some controversy when he said last year that the planned reforms are dangerous. Gilbert’s language seemed to echo that, so I asked him what he believed to be the most dangerous part of the planned reforms.
“This whole notion of weakening the public education system with what we call this undercover voucher program,” he said. “You’re talking about funds being diverted to follow children from district to district or area to area. You have to be real careful about that. If you’ve got an entity that has not received its proper funds then you divert more money away-resources are vital.”
All the proposed legislation must first pass through committees before reaching the House or Senate floor for a vote.