BOMGAR/The case for charter schools
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 1:00 AM
As an entrepreneur and business owner I know that accountability fosters success. In business if something isn't working, it has to be changed. Otherwise, customers will provide accountability by taking their business elsewhere.
To generate a culture of success in our children's education, we need that same sort of accountability in our public schools. Mississippi families should have the opportunity to choose the public schools that are most effective for their children and hold those schools accountable to prepare their children for life.
The group of 24 business leaders that are part of Better Education for Mississippi (BE4Miss.org) supports House Bill 890 as passed by the Mississippi Senate. That bill incorporates compromise language from both the House-passed and Senate-passed charter schools bills along with key items from Governor Phil Bryant's Education Works agenda. It is landmark legislation that is comprehensive and has the potential to profoundly revitalize public education in Mississippi.
Providing C-rated districts the power to veto charter school applications until 2016 is a fair compromise because it gives those borderline districts additional time to improve. Nearly 50,000 Mississippi students attend schools rated D or F that lie within school districts rated C or higher. This bill will ultimately give many of those students a potential alternative to being trapped in failing schools.
Consider the case for allowing charter schools in C-rated districts:
1) Mississippi's highest performing students score 50th-51st when compared to other highest-performing students across the nation. Specifically, Mississippi's highest performing students rank:
50th in 4th grade reading
51st in 8th grade reading
51st in 4th grade math
51st in 8th grade math
2) According to MS KidsCount's data on ACT scores there is not a single C-rated school district in Mississippi that is, on average, graduating college-ready students.
3) There are more students trapped in failing schools in Mississippi's C-rated school districts than there are in F-rated districts - 37,223 students attend failing schools in C districts, while 27,203 attend failing schools in F districts.
4) The overwhelming majority of Mississippi voters agree with the compromise reforms set forth in HB 890. An in-depth, scientific poll of more than 2,500 Mississippians conducted just four months ago found that nearly seventy percent (70%) of Mississippians support charter schools. Broad support for charter schools exists even in areas with some of the state's best school districts, like Desoto (66%) and Rankin (70%) counties. More specifically, sixty-five percent (65%) of Mississippians believe that we should "allow charter schools to be formed in any school district" in the state.
Everyone agrees that our public school system must remain focused on one fundamental goal: preparing all Mississippi children for life. Most also agree, unfortunately, we are not meeting that goal today.
House Bill 890 as passed by the full Senate contains the types of reforms and advancements we must institute to foster innovation and increase accountability. Let's give our children a chance to achieve their dreams. Let's give them success. And, by "success" we don't mean moving up a place or two in the rankings. "Success" means giving our kids - all of them - the nation's best education. Only when that is accomplished should we be satisfied.
Learn more and sign our petition supporting charter schools at www.BE4Miss.org.
Joel Bomgar of Jackson is the founder and CEO of Bomgar Corporation and serves as Chairman of Better Education for Mississippi (BE4Miss.org). He can be reached at info@BE4Miss.org.
(Sources: NAEP data from the National Center for Education Statistics, ACT data from MS KidsCount, survey information from BE4Miss.org survey of 2,580 active voters in MS conducted Nov. 26 - Dec. 2, 2012.)