A debate over the establishment of charter schools in Mississippi was held at the Overby Center this past Friday.
A bill that would allow charter schools to be established in certain areas of the state is currently waiting to be passed in the Mississippi legislature.
This past Friday, a debate about charter schools in Mississippi was held in the Overby Center. Bill Rose, a senior Overby fellow and visiting journalism professor, was the moderator of the debate.
The debate was between Rachel Cantor of Mississippi First and state Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory.
Mississippi First is in support of establishing charter schools in designated areas. These areas are in need of improved sex education programs, as well as more early childhood education programs and much more.
During the debate, Bryan argued that many Mississippi schools are in small towns and that public schools bring communities together. Bryan said he is unable to get a straight answer from fellow politicians about why Mississippi needs charter schools.
Bryan also discussed the ethics of the establishment of charter schools.
“The charter schools need the public schools to take on the children that they don’t want to have,” Bryan said.
Bryan said that instead of investing money into charter schools, money should be invested in public schools and used to raise the pay of teachers.
“When I pay my taxes, I am paying for children to go into the Amory school system, so if we build charter schools, I am going to have to not only pay for those students, but also the select few that the get to attend the charter school,” he said.
Cantor rebutted by saying that charter schools are schools of choice. There are some areas in Mississippi that desperately need them and some that don’t. Charter schools do not exclude students but rather leave the choice to the parents.
“Too many children in Mississippi go to underperforming schools,” Cantor said, “And even children who go to schools that are considered ‘OK’ are not having their needs met.”
Cantor also referenced the success of similar programs at the national level.
“Charter schools in other parts of the country have shown us that there are different ways,” Cantor said.
“It tells those same children that they are worth the best education that can possibly be given and close(s) in on the achievement gap.”
Cantor rebutted the allegation that charter schools would be a repeat of the establishment of private academies as a way to avoid integration.
“Charter schools have shown us that black students can achieve just as much as white students and that low-income students can as achieve just as much as high-income students,” she said.