Charter school legislation heads to conference - - The News for South Mississippi

Charter school legislation heads to conference; Lt. Gov. doubts compromise

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

It's been a drawn out debate the last few months, but charter school legislation just may not make the grade this year. This after the house voted late Monday afternoon to send a senate version to a conference, or negotiating committee.

Democratic representative Chuck Espy wrote the initial house bill and has been fighting for charter schools all session long. He voted to adopt what the senate passed, but says a conference committee will allow house representatives a chance to weigh in.  

"We did not have a fair opportunity to debate it on the house floor and by going to conference, it gives us more avenues," said Espy of Clarksdale.

The only avenue Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves sees is the end of the debate. Although Reeves supports charter schools, he says he doesn't believe the bill can face anymore compromise without gutting its overall purpose and weakening the intent.  

"We already have a bad charter school bill on the books in our state. We don't need another one," said Reeves.

Espy is still holding out and believes lawmakers can negotiate a working bill. He's even offering an amendment which would allow high performing and star districts the opportunity to opt out of charter schools indefinitely. Espy says that was one of the sticking points for lawmakers from school districts like Desoto County and Bay St. Louis.  

"Things around here aren't dead until it is dead, dead, dead. We're just on the second dead, so it hasn't reached its third death yet," said Espy.

Fellow democrat, representative Steve Holland voted to send the bill to conference and says it needs to just go away.   Holland says the emphasis and money need to placed back on the state's current public system.    

"It's nothing but a siphoning of public money off for private education and I'm just not going to support that," said Holland, of Plantersville.

With a less than optimistic outlook for a committee to hammer out an agreement, Reeves is now turning his attention to next year, to give charter schools a fresh start.  

"We need to give these kids the opportunity for success and the fact of the matter is the lobbyists for the status quo won and the kids lost," said Reeves.

If a compromise is not reached and approved, Governor Phil Bryant says he's considering calling a special session to give lawmakers another chance.


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