Why The Parents’ Campaign Supports HB 369, the House Charter School Bill

I know that many of you are very skeptical of charter schools, and I share some of that skepticism. I also know that thousands of Mississippi children have been trapped for years in chronically underperforming schools. We have to do something for these children, and we need to do something now.

Many believe that it isn’t fair to provide funds for new (charter) schools when the Legislature has refused to provide adequate funding for traditional schools. They have a point. But, the truth is that, where schools are chronically failing, the primary problem isn’t a lack of funding. Chronically failing schools almost always remain so due to poor leadership. Charter schools provide the only way for children to circumvent that entrenched, failed leadership to get a shot at a good public school. We owe them that opportunity.

It is also true that, nationally, a higher percent of charter schools fail than do traditional schools. We know who the “bad players” are, by and large, and the goal of The Parents’ Campaign has been to eliminate them from the charter school landscape in Mississippi.

The bad players are those who are in it to make a buck – the for-profits. The bottom line for the for-profit crowd is raking money off the top to pay shareholders and executives. They are less interested in educating children, and the proof has been in the pudding. Their schools perform poorly. Virtual schools represent the very worst of the for-profit crowd. Eliminating these bad players has been a “die-in-the-ditch” issue for us, because they would do more harm than good for Mississippi children. HB 369 prohibits for-profits from running charter schools, and it does not allow virtual charter schools.

Charter Successes

There are also some incredible success stories in the charter school world, most notably the truly incredible work of Geoffrey Canada and his team in the Harlem Children’s Zone. FirstLine schools in New Orleans have also had great success converting failing schools into success stories. KIPP schools have provided a great experience for thousands of children in other states. These are non-profit, mission-based organizations that are serious about providing an excellent education for children who were headed for disaster because of failing public schools.

HB 369 represents an opportunity for a “Mississippi Children’s Zone” – a path to a brighter future for the children who now are on a dismal road. I ask for your support. This is not about politics for us. It isn’t about winning or losing. It is about the lives of thousands of Mississippi kids whose outlook right now is grim.

We do need funding – and we will continue to push hard for the Legislature to step up and do its job on that front. We also need a way to work around a failing, entrenched leadership that simply will not get the job done for children.