The Mississippi state legislature is right in the middle of its current 90-day session, and lawmakers like District 39 House Representative Gary Chism are developing a pretty good idea about which law will realistically pass and which will retire to the legislative graveyard in 2013.
Chism spoke to Clay County citizens on Monday morning at City Hall. The weekly Growth Alliance “Legislative Breakfast” event featured a healthy crowd of concerned citizens and local leaders.
The Republican gave insights on bills regarding education, taxes and insurance.
Education is by far the most controversial topic at the capitol, as lawmakers like Chism have voted in favor of expanding charter schools with the idea of raising the quality of education by means of competition.
In other words, many of Mississippi’s failing or low-performing districts might have to compete, most importantly for students, with separately run public schools in their districts.
“Charter schools are public schools,” Chism told the early-morning crowd.
Chism admits that the fate of charter school expansion rests with how dogmatic Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves will be regarding veto power for school boards.
The senate bill that was passed allows for charter schools to be opened in schools graded A, B or C without the threat of veto from the local school board. The respondent House bill give C (Successful) school districts veto power.
“The House bill is going to be a lot narrower than the senate bill,” Chism sad. “For one, it limits the number of charter schools per year to 15, and only D and F schools can be created without veto.”
Chism says that if Reeves remains insistent on C districts not having veto power, the bill could die, killing once again an attempt at “education reform.”
Chism says that he sees the 15 charter schools in the House bill as a “pilot” program and that will be sufficient in the first year to see if the system will indeed be effective in the state.
More comprehensively, Chism also supports a push to make all superintendents appointed, rather than elected. In turn, he supports all school boards being elected bodies.
“If we really want to change education, we feel like we need appointed superintendents,” Chism says. “Instead of the person having to be from that county, you can do a national search. You would get a better choice that way.”
The senate passed the measure, but Chism says that he does not think the House will support it.
“I don’t think we have the votes to pass it,” Chism said.
“Education reform” was touted long before the current session as the top priority of Republican lawmakers.
The push for “school choice” and a “merit pay” system for teachers has been met with much resistance, but the measures have achieved much greater success in the last month than they had in previous sessions.