Charter bill passes senate; educational advocates weigh in - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Charter bill passes senate; educational advocates weigh in

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JACKSON, MS (WLBT) -

A bill establishing charter schools in Mississippi cleared a major hurdle Wednesday afternoon after passing the state Senate. Advocates for education are urging lawmakers to be careful charter schools don't just become a new part of Mississippi's old education problem. 

With state lawmakers moving forward in changing the make up of Mississippi's public education system, one of the nation's leading advocates for child education is weighing in.  

"We hope there will be a robust debate in the Mississippi legislature and that they would pay attention," said Marian Wright Edelman, President and Founder of the Children's Defense Fund.

Edelman made a stop in Jackson Wednesday for an early childhood education conference. With the potential for charter schools happening in Mississippi, she cautioned that lawmakers should act carefully.  

"This is a very important juncture," Edelman said. "And we all have to wake up and be very alert and make sure that our children are going to be given something better than they are now. And what they're getting now in too many of the Mississippi public schools is not good enough."

Edelman said with one third of all Mississippi children classified as poor and part of failing school districts, a charter system can create much needed competition in providing a higher quality education. But creating them can lead to problems, if not done correctly.  

"The bottom line is in the details. And we've got to make sure that this stays in a public sphere and that it is not used to profit, it's not used to re-segregate, it's used to create higher quality education for children." 

Local advocates for education like Rhea Williams-Bishop agree and say charter schools should open strategically, first in places where the need for quality education is higher.  

"We just want to make sure that as we move forward as a state that we don't leave behind the children who have already traditionally been left behind in the process," said Williams-Bishop.

Details of the bill have yet to be finalized. But Edelman believes charter schools will only be about ten percent of the solution to a problem that's be plaguing the state for years.  

"We just have to wake up and be very careful and be very vigilant about how we proceed with charters here," said Edelman.

Now that it has passed the Senate, the charter school bill will now head to the Mississippi House of Representatives.

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