Special Report
School Choice & Charters

Federal Money a Factor in Miss. Charter School Debate

By The Associated Press — March 25, 2010 3 min read

Mississippi legislators are considering a charter school proposal that proponents say could better position the state for the federal Race to the Top competition and provide an option for parents with children in struggling schools.

The Obama Administration has set aside $4.35 billion for states in its education reform competition. In Mississippi, any boost in education funding would be welcomed, some lawmakers say.

But debate has been heated on proposals to give parents the option to create charter schools and “new start” schools in an effort to convert failing ones. Mississippi has 212 schools that are classified as failing or at risk of failing. The state has a total of 951 elementary and secondary schools.

Generally, charter schools are supported with public funding but have a different governing structure and don’t have to adhere to all state mandates.

“It gives parents an option. This hopefully will prevent a lot of these schools from being under (state control) later on down the road,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Videt Carmichael, R-Meridian.

Carmichael said the state could earn extra points if it has a charter school law.

A former teacher and principal, Carmichael said the state has a chance to receive between $47 million to $175 in the federal competition, “depending on what we apply for.” The program provides grants to states that take a series of steps, including stricter evaluation of teachers and principals.

Saturday is the deadline for agreements on general bills to be filed.

Mississippi didn’t submit an application for the first round when 16 states were picked. The state is going to submit an application for the next round.

Mississippi Superintendent of Education Tom Burnham is concerned about how the measure could affect his agency. He said his staff is already stretched thin assisting in the oversight of five school districts under state control. He told House and Senate negotiators this week that two more school districts could be taken over within the next few months.

“There’s not an infrastructure to manage charter schools with the limited personnel. Hopefully we wouldn’t be put into that position,” Burnham said.

House Education Committee Chairman Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, acknowledged the concern about resources, but he also said the agency doesn’t have the capability to help all 212 schools.

Other resistance has come lawmakers who represent the poverty-stricken Mississippi Delta region, which has majority black public school systems.

“Charter schools is not the answer to the problems in education. The answer to the problems is fully funding education and making sure you have the people in place to improve the school district,” said state Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood.

Jordan said he’s the product of poorly funded schools, but educators learned to make due with what they had.

“I was classmates with Morgan Freeman at Broad Street High School in Greenwood. He’s worth millions of dollars today. I came from the cotton fields and earned two degrees, served as city councilman and a legislator. Don’t tell me about failing schools,” Jordan said.

Rep. Clara Burnett, D-Tunica, one of the House negotiators on the proposal, said she doesn’t even want the term “charter” in the bill.

Rep. Chuck Espy, D-Clarksdale, is one of the few Delta lawmakers in favor of charter schools. Espy said he wants to take legislators on a tour of KIPP Delta Public Schools in Arkansas. He said children from all socio-economic backgrounds have excelled in those charter schools.

“People in the upper echelon of the financial structure are at this Capitol. They can put their kids any place in the world. They have options. What about the single mother in the Delta that’s just making ends meet?” Espy said.

The Tennessee Legislature went into special session to make changes to that state’s laws to qualify for the program, he said. “Everybody is going over the call of duty and here in Mississippi we have nothing to lose and we still won’t get up and fight for quality education,” said Espy.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Safe Return to Schools is Possible with Testing
We are edging closer to a nationwide return to in-person learning in the fall. However, vaccinations alone will not get us through this. Young children not being able to vaccinate, the spread of new and
Content provided by BD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Meeting the Moment: Accelerating Equitable Recovery and Transformative Change
Educators are deciding how best to re-establish routines such as everyday attendance, rebuild the relationships for resilient school communities, and center teaching and learning to consciously prioritize protecting the health and overall well-being of students
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters How the Pandemic Helped Fuel the Private School Choice Movement
State lawmakers got a new talking point as they pushed to create and expand programs to send students to private schools.
8 min read
Collage showing two boys in classroom during pandemic wearing masks with cropped photo of feet and arrows going in different directions.
Collage by Gina Tomko/EducationWeek (Images: Getty)
School Choice & Charters Opinion Taking Stock After 30 Years of Charter Schools
Rick Hess speaks with Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, on charter schools turning 30.
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters In Fight Over Millions of Dollars for Charter Schools, a Marijuana Tax May Bring Peace
The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind a polarizing lawsuit settlement, pending certain stipulations.
Nuria Martinez-Keel, The Oklahoman
3 min read
Money bills cash funds close up Getty
School Choice & Charters Full-Time Virtual Schools: Still Growing, Still Struggling, Still Resisting Oversight
Nearly 500,000 students now attend full-time online and blended schools, says a new report from the National Education Policy Center.
6 min read
Student attending class from a remote location.