National group blasts charter school bill

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Published: March 29,2010

Tags: Charter schools, education, Legislature

WASHINGTON — Todd Ziebarth, vice president, state advocacy and support, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has released a statement blasting the charter school bill in the Mississippi Legislature.

Ziebarth said, “In 1997, Mississippi enacted what was widely considered to be the nation’s weakest charter school law because it only allowed six traditional public schools to convert to charter schools while failing to allow any brand new charter schools to start from scratch.  It was mercifully allowed to die in 2009.  During the 12 years that the law was on the books, only one traditional public school converted to a public charter school.

Believe it or not, the Mississippi legislature has just passed a charter school bill – SB 2293 – that is actually worse than the 1997 law.  Even the bill’s sponsor refused to sign the conference committee report for it.  Not only is the bill confined to conversions, but it also includes numerous additional restrictions that weren’t in the 1997 law.  It truly sets a new low in charter school law.

Despite countless hours of working to educate legislators and ease the mistrust that stems from years of a segregated past, the efforts of charter supporters apparently went unheeded.  Significant gaps remain between the myths and realities about public charter schools that will have to be closed in order for the promise of public charter schools to be realized in the state.

In the meantime, it is clear that SB 2293 will not spur the creation of high-quality public charter schools in the state, nor will it increase the state’s competitiveness for Round 2 of the Race to the Top competition.  It is safe to say that not a single public charter school will actually open because of the bill.

Mississippi has the highest percentage of public school students from low-income families in the nation.  Mississippi also ranks 50th of out 51 jurisdictions on the 4th and 8th grade reading and math scores for the nation’s report card – the National Assessment of Educational Progress.  These students desperately need their state lawmakers to stake their political capital on creating more and better public schools for them through such measures as strong charter school laws.  Instead, they got the actions that led to SB 2293.

This action is particularly tragic given the growing number of parents, educators, and community organizations eager to create brand new charter schools, especially for the neediest students in the state’s poorest regions, to help close the achievement gap in the state.

The good news is that this bill has not become law yet.  Governor Haley Barbour can veto it.  We emphatically request that he do just that.”

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