Lawmakers back charter schools

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lincoln County lawmakers offered assurances Monday that pending charter school legislation would only target failing schools in the state and that charter schools are unlikely for Brookhaven.

     Speaking at Monday’s Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast, District 39 Sen. Sally Doty and District 92 Rep. Becky Currie lent their support to the charter school measure. Both Republicans, though, expected changes in the differing versions that are pending in the House and Senate.

     “At the end of the day, it will be a bill, I believe, that everyone will be proud of,” said Currie.

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     More than half of the questions submitted for consideration touched on the charter school issue, said Tillmon Bishop, who moderated the event.

     Currie expected the final version of the bill to only target failing schools. She pointed out that Mississippi has the highest dropout rate in the nation.

     “At some point, we have to take responsibility for what we have,” Currie said.

     She said no one can give up in the fight to provide better education. To that end, charter schools can be helpful.

     “I think we need to use every tool in the toolbox that we can to help our children,” Currie said.

     Doty, who has three children in the Brookhaven School District, said she was initially very concerned about the charter school issue. However, she has come around to seeing the value they have for improving low-performing schools.

     “I don’t see there being a charter school in Brookhaven,” Doty said. “I don’t see that there’s a need for a charter school in Brookhaven.”

     If passed, Doty did not anticipate any rapid expansion of charter schools in the state. She also pointed out that there will be a rigorous application process for granting charter schools and operators will have to have a proven track record of success.

     Among other topics raised during the brief question and answer session, Currie was asked about her immigration bill. The bill is now in the House Education committee.

     The bill was modeled after strict legislation in Alabama. However, Currie said everything that was challenged in court in the Alabama law has been stripped from the Mississippi bill.

     “If you’re here illegally, I don’t think you should have more rights than those who were born here, or came here the right way,” said Currie in support of the bill.

     Currie went on to say the federal government is not doing its job in the area of illegal immigration.

     “We have a right to do what we want to in our state,” Currie said.

     Earlier in the event, Currie and Doty gave their expectations for what lawmakers will focus on and do this session. District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, had a last-minute meeting in Rankin County Monday and was unable to attend, Bishop said.

     Currie said more than 1,900 bills were filed in the House this year. She expected very few of those to come out of committee.

     “If it’s not emergent, we’re not going to take it up this year,” said Currie, who has been nominated as deputy whip for House Republicans.

     Doty also anticipated minimal activity during the session. The senator, who gave brief reports on activity pending before the committees she serves on, indicated she was not adding to any of the legislative possibilities.

     “We’ve got plenty of legislation,” she said. “I’m not introducing anything on my own this year.”