District 37 Representative Gary Chism has been a proponent of charter schools since the idea was first brought to the state capitol.
Chism sees charter schools, not as a fix-all for the state’s education problems, but rather as a chance for parents and students in “failing” school districts to have new opportunities in education.
“The current bill is going to be very limited,” Chism said of the House bill that passed Thursday morning, which is different from the Senate bill that was passed last week. “It will only allow for 15 charter schools to be created each year.”
Chism also pointed out that in the current bill, A,B and C districts will have veto power over charter schools in their districts.
“We looked at several different charter school bills from around the country,” Chism said. “We wanted to put a bill together that was going to be fair.”
Chism said that the first order of business was to make sure the charter schools would be non-profit.
Chism said that one of the things lost between the Senate committee and the House version of the bill is virtual schools expansion.
Chism says the status quo will be followed regarding virtual classrooms in the new bill.
Chism says the governing board at the state level will have nine members, three appointed by the governor, three by the Lt. Governor and three by the Mississippi Department of Education.
“The bill we have now is less restrictive, but it does offer some opportunities in some places,” Chism said. “If my children were going to a school that was failing, I would think about moving, and probably would. But some parents are trapped. They may have jobs there or something else keeping them there. This provides an opportunity for them to get something different.”
Chism says there is also nothing wrong with a little healthy competition.
“I’m hoping this will spur some competition,” Chism said. “If we can get more parental involvement in a charter school, we’re hoping it will spill over into the regular public schools.”
Chism says that the graduation rates that have been low in the state have to be addressed one way or another.
“Nobody is going to hire you if you do not have a high school diploma or a GED,” he said. “Nobody is going to hire you for a good paying job.”
Chism will likely get to weigh in on the issue again before the current 90-day session ends. The bill is not being negotiated.