By The (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger:
During Mississippi’s upcoming 2013 legislative session, we will hear a lot of talk about charter schools.
It’s nothing new, since for two years now, at least, the vast majority of educational reform energy has been focused on charter schools. It’s just that this year, education reform is getting even more attention — meaning charter schools will lead the discussion.
In a best-case scenario for charter school supporters, expansion in Mississippi would impact only a fraction of students, and that impact could be years down the road. If an expansion is passed, the first charter schools in the state could take years to set up.
Thus, charter schools are little more than a political red herring — garnering most of the debate, energy and focus of the commonwealth while drowning out other education and general issues in Mississippi.
Certainly, there has been an increase in charter schools nationally over the last decade. But these charter schools still represent only 2 percent to 5 percent of public schools and students served. There’s simply no way that a solution serving such a small percentage of students can change the course of the state’s educational dilemma.
Yet, the public in Mississippi has heard so much about charter schools in the last two years, many in the state could view them as a panacea for the state’s public education problems.
State leaders who are pushing for charter schools expansion do note this, mildly, from time to time. The most common phrase, repeated by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn and Gov. Phil Bryant, is that charter schools “are only one tool for the toolbox” of education reform.
But this message doesn’t appear to get much play or traction as the debate continues to rage as if it is some major solution.
Simply, many people appear to think charter schools will promptly solve many of Mississippi’s education problems. ...
... But let’s face this fact: charter schools are not a miracle for what ails Mississippi education.
They won’t spring up magically overnight if the Legislature passes an expansion bill, as is expected by many. And, for charter schools to work, it would require active participation from parents and the communities they would serve.
The same could already be said for existing public schools. ...
By The (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger:
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