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Possibility of public school privatization

Cain Madden / The Daily Mississippian

A new bill facing the Mississippi Legislature could allow certain areas to create state-funded private schools.

The Mississippi Public Charter Schools Act of 2012, or SB 2401, addresses the privatization of public schools. Failing schools, a rating of which is determined by the Mississippi Department of Education’s Accountability Results, would have the option to become private schools.

Charlie Mitchell, assistant dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, recently wrote an article discussing the issue of privatization. He said privatization is the result of the state essentially dropping out.

Right now, the state, counties and cities operate the public schools, and the schools are funded with public money. If this bill passes, the new private schools will receive state funding to operate.

The use of public funds for private or charter schools would take funds away from public schools and school districts that may also be having problems meeting the needs of students.

“I believe it to be in our best interest to demand the best for all of our students, not just those that can afford it or those in which learning and achievement is easy,” Brian Harvey, Oxford School District superintendent, said.

Schools in other states have made the switch to private systems. Some of the schools are doing well, while others have not improved at all.

“If we want to have strong and vibrant communities, we must continue to stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves, while maintaing high standards of achievement for all,” Harvey said.

Harvey said the relationship between schools and communities is reciprocal. Where one finds strong schools, one also finds strong communities. It is also true that where one finds a struggling community, the schools are having problems, as well. 

Mitchell said he does not think privatization is a good thing. He said if public schools were given the power to monitor their students as closely as private schools, they would be able to improve. 

“I think that they think it’s too difficult, and their hands are tied, but I do not agree,” Mitchell said as to why public schools are not given the same powers as private schools.

In his article, Mitchell said Gov. Phil Bryant and other supporters of privatizing schools believe “charters will only be issued to groups that will improve outcomes for all students who enroll, that everything will be closely monitored and on and on.”

Both Harvey and Mitchell agree that Mississippi schools are headed toward privatization, whether they like it or not. The bill has not been passed yet, but Bryant is in favor of it.