A set of bills that could expand the reach of charter schools throughout the state is making its way through the legislature.
House Bill 1044 and Senate Bill 2161 would allow any student in the state to cross school district lines to attend a charter school of his or her choice. Current law stipulates charters are only intended for students in D or F districts.
Both bills were passed by their respective education committees yesterday and are now heading to the House and Senate floor for debate.
Republican Gray Tollison of Oxford is the Chair of the Senate Education Committee. He hopes the changes will allow charter schools to expand across the state.
“I think this will really help, especially in the rural areas, the Mississippi Delta, the possibilities of having more students who would be eligible to attend a charter school,” says Tollison.
Under the Senate's plan, charters will also be allowed to begin operating in C-rated districts. In an amended version passed by the House Education Committee, the schools could have been established in A through F districts. However, House leadership has since deemed that amendment invalid, bringing it more in line with the Senate's version.
The topic of charter schools has also continued to split lawmakers down party lines with nearly every Democrat in both the House and Senate committees voting against the changes. Democratic Senator David Jordan of Greenwood says lawmakers hould be focused on providing resources for traditional public schools.
“I think we need to put emphasis on fully funding public schools,” says Jordan, “especially those in the poor areas, and see that they get the resources they need. Instead of creating another entity and saying ‘Well, let’s try this.”
Under both bills, funds would follow the student from their home district to the charter school wherever it may be.