Charter bill passes senate; educational advocates weigh in

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - A bill establishing charter schools in Mississippi cleared a major hurdle Wednesday afternoon after passing the Senate.

With it's passage, advocates for education are urging lawmakers to take their time in making sure charter schools don't become part of the problem of lack luster education.

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 and with the potential for charter schools happening at the State Capitol, she says lawmakers should act carefully.

"This is a very important juncture and we all have to wake up and be very alert and make sure that our children are going to be giving 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.

Edelman says 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," Edelman said.

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," Williams-Bishop said.

While the details of the bill are yet to be finalized and a new frontier for Mississippi, Edelman says 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," Edelman said.

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

Copyright 2012 WLBT. All rights reserved.

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