Legislators field 'Charter' questions
Wednesday, March 13, 2013 1:00 AM
Charter schools were the main topics of discussion during a legislative breakfast hosted by the Community Development Partnership Monday morning.
The event, held in the historic train depot, featured state Rep. C. Scott Bounds, state Sen. Giles Ward and Congressman Gregg Harper speaking to a group of local government and business leaders.
Charter schools dominated much of the hour, with numerous questions asked by educators in attendance.
Rep. Bounds said that both the House and Senate have a version of the measure, each differing in certain areas.
"The House and Senate bills are far apart," he said, noting the House wanted to look at the Senate version.
Sen. Ward's only initial comment on the issue was that "education is important."
Ken Webster, a technology technician at Neshoba Central Elementary School, asked how the legislature could consider funding charter schools if it does not properly fund public schools.
"If schools don't get the funding, how can they be expected to pass?" he asked.
Bounds responded, saying charter schools were not a "magic bullet" that would solve all the issues.
He expressed his belief that allowing charter schools would not cause a sudden increase in them.
"If there are 10 in the next five year, that'll be a lot," he said.
Sen. Ward agreed, re-expressing his thought that if charter schools could help children in struggling areas get better grades, then "why not try."
Commander Chris Rowell, with the Neshoba Central Naval Junior Officer Training Corps, said he was afraid that charter schools would start taking good students out of public schools.
Ward refuted this idea, saying charter schools do not get to pick the students, noting that the decision would be left up to parents. This, he noted, was a common misconception among opponents of the measure.
"Charter schools would still have the same expectations placed on them that public schools do," Ward said.
Another question aired was how teachers would be paid if there were no students to be taught.
"That's an issue that would have to be looked at," Rep. Bounds said.
Others issues discussed were expanding Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.
Bounds said that if Medicaid were increased, another 300,000 Mississippian would be added.
However he noted his disbelief that an increase would occur before the end of this legislative session.
"There would have to be cuts across the board to expand Medicaid," he said.
Ward added the Mississippi government, unlike the federal government, couldn't spend money it doesn't have.
Congressman Harper spoke briefly on the Keystone Pipeline, lowering the corporate tax rate and governmental spending.
Thomasson Company CEO Pat Thomasson asked if Washington would consider approving the pipeline.
Harper responded, saying that despite the various concerns the President might green light the pipeline in April.