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The Charter Schools Fight

Lectures: Legislative adversaries Sen. Hob Bryan of Amory and Mississippi First executive director Rachel Canter face off on the Charter School issue

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       Two legislative foes, veteran state Sen. Hob Bryan and Mississippi First executive director Rachel Canter, will discuss the controversial charter school bill at 3 p.m. Friday, February 8, at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at Ole Miss.

       Bryan, chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary B Committee, has been an outspoken foe of charters, warning that they will create a dual school system and suck badly needed money and students from the state's traditional public schools. Canter, a frequent advocate for education reforms, argues that charters have the potential to raise student achievement by providing an alternative to students trapped in underachieving schools that fail to meet state standards. 

       Competing charter school bills have passed the House and Senate and a conference committee is trying to work out the differences. The Senate bill would require the local school board's approval before a charter school could be created in school districts rated A or B. The House bill would require school board approval for C schools as well. If a bill wins final passage, Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to sign it into law. 

       Bryan, a Democrat from Amory, was one of the primary authors of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program in 1997 and has been an advocate on many other public education issues through the years. He has served in the Senate since 1984. He graduated from Mississippi State University and got his law degree from the University of Virginia.

       Canter taught for two years in Greenville with Teach For America. She completed a master’s in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Before joining Mississippi First, she held fellowships at the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service, Chicago’s public schools, The Education Trust and the Mississippi Governor's Office. 

        “We hope these two committed education advocates will take us behind the two sides of the debate going on in Jackson and give us a road map for what’s ahead. In the House alone, the debate took 10 hours, a strong indication of just how contentious this issue has become,” said Overby Fellow Bill Rose.      

      A charter school is a publicly funded independent school established by teachers, parents or community groups under the terms of a charter with state authorities. In exchange for being able to operate outside many of the regulations traditional public schools have to follow, the charter agrees to meet performance goals set out in the charter. Rose will serve as moderator for the event, which is free and open to the public.

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