By Leslie N. Dees
Kosciusko City Schools Superintendent Dr. Tony McGee said he doesn’t think Kosciusko needs a charter school. McGee was the speaker at the noon Monday meeting of the Kosciusko Rotary Club at Rib Alley.
McGee explained to those in attendance that the State House of Representatives passed their version of the charter school bill on January 24.
While the State Senate has their own version of the charter school bill, the house version is more to the liking of some superintendents across the state.
“The House version is a closer version of what superintendents have been asking for,” he said. “We are concerned about the charter school process and how that it’s going to set up. We are worried about how it is going to affect public education and communities like ours.”
He explained that a charter school is a school that is funded with public tax dollars and can be run by a private entity. McGee added that charter schools are usually free from many of the traditional regulations that are mandated at public schools.
“We understand that all kids need a quality education and we want every kid to get a good quality education,” McGee said. “We understand that not every kid gets the chance that Kosciusko kids have. We do worry about how it’s going to effect communities such as ours.”
“My concern was that – Kosciusko is a small town and we all get along really well,” McGee said. “When you say, I’m going to start cherry picking kids, I think you start a class system. I think if they do charter schools, then it needs to represent the school’s population.”
He said that it shouldn’t be where the school can overlap into other districts.
“Splitting kids into different schools does not fix the problem and I think it does divide communities,” McGee said. “I don’t think school districts that are good school districts need charter schools coming in and dividing our kids. Right now, they are looking at putting charter schools in D and F districts. A, B, and C districts would be left alone.”
He also discussed the funding for these schools and public school districts are giving allotted government funding per student.
“When kids leave public school for the charter school, the money leaves with them,” McGee said. “It would further decrease the money that we have in the public school system.”
He added that Mississippi Adequate Education Program hasn’t been completely funded since the late 90s and cuts have been made over the years.
He said he was concerned over the funding issue and how public schools would continue to maintain what they have with charter schools taking away some of the funding.
“I understand sometimes you can’t keep putting money into bad schools but I don’t think just a brick and mortar building is the answer,” he said. “It really comes down to the people in that community.”
In proposed legislation, there would be 15 schools from the start and legislative approval would have to be passed for their forming.
Early on, McGee explained that charter schools were to be set up as a learning laboratory in which to develop an identity through the methods of public education.
The standards and bylaws of those charter schools can be run differently than that of a public school.
There are studies out there that say only 17 percent of charter schools do better than what our public schools are doing, McGee said.
In the house bill, the administrators do not have to be certified in education to be administrator of the charter school and 75 percent of the teachers have to be certified.
In public schools, all teachers must be certified.