The understandable resentments of traditional public schools toward charter schools were on full display recently among members of the Jackson school board.
The Midtown Public Charter School, which has been open for seven years and has 240 students in grades 5 to 8, wanted to lease an unused Jackson school building in order to expand.
The school board ultimately decided to reject the lease proposal, and Midtown Public announced this week it will move to a building near Interstate 55 for the 2022-23 school year.
It’s no surprise that some school board members and public school supporters dislike charter schools. Having one in your district is a sign that the education mission is failing.
A charter school also receives money from the public school district where it’s located, and the charter has more flexibility for teachers and administrators than its public school peers do.
As a Jackson school board member observed at an April meeting, it’s hard for public schools to play ball “when the other person doesn’t have to follow those rules.”
The Mississippi Today website reported that so far this year, the Jackson school district has sent almost $900,000 to Midtown Public. A point in favor of leasing the unused school to the charter school was that it would recover some of the money that was following Midtown’s students. But a point against the lease was that Midtown Public wants to expand, which ultimately means Jackson schools would be funneling more money to the charter as its enrollment increased.
At another school board meeting, a mother of two Midtown Public students said it was a good school. But other speakers noted that the charter school has a D rating from the state, which is far from the transformational goals to which charters aspire.
A couple of thoughts on this. The school board member who complained about different rules for charter schools has a point. The Jackson district, which is home to several different charter schools, therefore should seek state permission to experiment with some different rules of its own at a couple of locations, recruiting willing principals and teachers.
At the same time, public school leaders need to realize that charter schools aren’t going away any time soon. They’ll have to learn to co-exist.
Given that Mississippi’s pace of charter openings has been very slow, an average of about one school per year; and that charters only handle a small percentage of any school district’s enrollment, they do not present an excessive burden to any district that has to give them some of its money.
The board that supervises charter schools in the state has been very selective. One reason may be that having a few poorly managed charters fail would not help the quest for better education.
For an underperforming school district, the current arrangement is certainly a better option than what would happen if the state started experimenting with open enrollments, allowing all students to attend the public school of their choice no matter where they live.
— Jack Ryan, McComb Enterprise-Journal