Racial Divide seen in Mississippi Debate over Charter Schools

From NBC News:

This winter, charter supporters will make their fifth attempt in five years to bring charters to Mississippi, one of a dwindling number of states without a real charter school law. But the deep-rooted skepticism of the state’s black leadership remains one of the biggest obstacles to bipartisan support for charters in Mississippi and throughout the South, where powerful white Democrats are a disappearing breed. It also speaks to broader mistrust among black officials nationwide — particularly those who came of age before or during the civil rights movement — toward contemporary school reform efforts they believe are being imposed by outsiders on low-income, minority communities.

In Mississippi, which has the nation’s highest rate of childhood poverty and posts some of the weakest test scores, there’s particular urgency to improving the schools. Advocates of charters believe the autonomous schools will help boost the state’s abysmal academic performance. They say they can learn from mistakes made in other states to ensure Mississippi’s charter law is exemplary.


Blacks in Mississippi should be anxious about white legislators ‘fiddling’ with things, especially the schools. Most of us are old enough to remember the segregation laws of this and other Confederate states. In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional [ Brown v. Board of Education.] Not surprisingly, the citizens of that state made no effort to abandon their dual school system. The passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, most Mississippi school districts reluctantly adopted freedom-of-choice desegregation plans, which essentially provided that any student could choose to go to any school in a district. Naturally, the gap between white and black education created by fifty years of support for white (only) education was huge as reflected in state ranking of U.S. schools with MS perennially at the bottom.  

Of course, black students were not welcome in the ‘white’ schools. An article on the University of Southern Mississippi website called “School Desegregation”

  Freedom-of-choice desegregation, however, only offered five years of token desegregation and the preservation of largely segregated schools. The problem was that in the 1960s, most black Mississippians really did not have freedom of choice. Between 1964 and 1969, black parents who chose white schools for their children were subjected to numerous forms of intimidation: some were pressured or fired by their employers; some lost their housing; some lost their credit at the local bank; and others received threatening phone calls, had crosses burned on their lawns, or were victims of physical intimidation.

Thus, elementary and high schools in MS have remained essentially racially unmixed. Fast forward to 2013 and the article cited by NBC. Blacks remember all of this as well as the Jim Crow laws under which they and their grandparents suffered for generations. Is it any wonder that this new ‘talk’ of shifting school arrangements sounds an alarm bell?

The NBC article goes on citing the fear that the charter movement will be hijacked by virtual schools and for-profit companies hoping to profit off of Mississippi’s children. And why not. That profiteering at the expense of solid education of the children has occurred here in Ohio ever since the charter school movement, now cleverly renamed ‘Community Schools,’ began here. A bit of history is noteworthy. Sally Perz, a former Republican state representative from Toledo,wrote the legislation creating charter schools in the mid-1990s. She now makes a handsome living monitoring charter schools and lobbying for the cause. She works for her daughter, Allison Perz, the $105,000 a year executive director of the Toledo-based Ohio Council of Community Schools, which oversees 45 charter schools around the state. Clever, eh? By the way, both Perz women make 6-digit salaries off of state tax dollars collected for Ohio public schools.

Further, many of these schools pay up to 12 percent of their income to private companies that manage them on a day-to-day basis. Ohio’s largest is White Hat, run by David L. Brennan, an Akron industrialist who is a major Republican campaign contributor. Ms. Perz formerly was a White Hat lobbyist. Red flags, anyone? More about White Hat Management here.

When charter schools first opened in Ohio, they were not subject to state-wide testing. That changed a few years ago.  Last year in the Toledo area, Charter [Community] schools performed poorly on the Ohio Achievement Test. Eight were rated in academic emergency [lowest rating], while of the remaining charter schools, 11 were in academic watch, 10 were in continuous improvement, and only two were rated effective. How’s that for tax dollars well spent! Several past charter schools were shut down by the state for terrible academic performance.

Thus, when the citizens of the state of Mississippi worry- especially the black citizens- about the charter school concept, they can learn quite a bit from the disappointments here in Ohio.

note: I published an article in 2009 regarding charter schools https://manwiththemuckrake.wordpress.com/2009/08/27/charter-schools-are-a-disaster/


26 thoughts on “Racial Divide seen in Mississippi Debate over Charter Schools

  1. In my opinion, the Charter School fix for failing public schools is or has
    passed. I wonder which would meaningfully improve the education of children, Charter Schools or the pre-kindergarden early education? In
    a poor state as Mississippi we can’t support both. Because of the large
    disadvantage early childhood of many Mississippians, I prefer the early
    intervention of the young population. We have many children because of
    the socio-economic background of parent, parents, or other family providers, who are not even prepared to enter kindergarten.

    Secondly, here in Mississippi, as you point out M_R, there is still a strong
    thread of racism in the population. Jackson Public Schools has about a 90% plus enrollment rate. Either there has been white flight to the suburbs, or they attend a private “prep” school. Many look at the GOP effort to
    begin a Charter School program as a means of financing the tuition of these
    prep schools, which costs are approximately in the $10-12,000.00 range.
    This is extremly outrageous!

    1. I would favor early-intervention rather than charter schools. Disadvantaged children never ‘catch-up’ with those who have already begin the learning process.

      You are correct to be weary of that GOP effort; the history of the GOP in the past 4 decades has not shown a propensity to come to the aid of poor black children.

  2. Parents, especially those of either minority children or ‘out-of-place’ children are desperate to find an educational setting for their child which will help move the child forward in an enriching way.

    The Toledo area is littered with charter [community] schools and I have driven past some of these as the children leave for the day. I can understand from a quick look at the students why the parent sent them there. These kids would stand out as ‘odd’ and they clearly would be targets for the school bullies. That is a sad commentary on life, but nonetheless true.

    From my experience, there is a need for a ‘different’ type of school for certain students, although clearly not for bully-targets. There ought to be zero tolerance for bullying in public schools, period! The creation of special schools for such kids is inane.

    However I think that public schools ought to offer an optional opportunity for students who show both a propensity as well as the ability to focus on a narrower, specialized curriculum. Additionally, these same public schools ought to be able to offer students an educational environment that is fitted to their particular learning style.

    Regarding the latter, I can attest from personal experience as a severely right-brained person that most of my teachers had no idea how to reach me in the classroom setting. They droned on with their non-visual, linear teaching while I fought to keep awake.

    On the topic of a specialized curriculum, some students exhibit a spark of brilliance in a particular subject and these students ought to be given the opportunity to find enrichment in these subjects. Schools for the arts or math/science could be created [many already are] for students from 7th through 12th grades. The curriculum here would cover the standard required subjects while broadening the scope of the ‘chartered’ subject/subjects.

    I may have more to say about this at a later time…

    1. My own experiences with local charter schools:

      1. A “friend” developed a severe drink and/or drug problem. A local district (in Lucas County) fired him. He was hired by a local charter school, but was later fired. His problem has gotten worse in the last year and he now wanders the streets of downtown Toledo.

      2. Ran into a guy from Cleveland who runs some local charter schools. Fixed up an interview for the spouse. Before even checking any of the spouse’s background or even asking for a resume, spouse was offered a job. I thought I was the one high when I heard spouse was offered $15,000 per year with no benefits.

      You need good teachers for a good education system. You mentioned your bad teachers. I also had some doozies in primary, secondary and college education. At the time I blamed myself; what a relief later when I realized they were the problem. Looking bad, I can tell you exactly the worst of them. Once, many years ago after consuming too much of the hootch, I actually attempted to call up the worst of the worst. He wasn’t home. And here’s one my mother hates. In Roman Catholic Masses they have a “sign of peace” segment. I swore if I ever ended up next to one certain educator, while shaking his hand, I was going to lean over and say “I hope you burn in hell!”

    2. “Parents, especially those of either minority children or ‘out-of-place’ children are desperate to find an educational setting for their child which will help move the child forward in an enriching way.”

      So, are you writing against the inclusive classroom? Where do we segregate these students too? Why should there be separate schools for science and math, or art and music, or literature and history, or whatever?
      Where do we put the gifted and talented, and I believe there are what, 7 areas of giftedness? What is the duty of the public school system? Is it
      to prepare students for college or the world of work and good citizens?
      What percentage should go on the College? How do they get into college, on what they know or whom they know? Should society pay for the enrichment of a few? How do we do the enriching? In front of a teacher
      or in front of a computer program, a software package? And, is it not
      catering to elitism? Is that what we want an educational system for the elite, yes those 1 percenters?That would be fitting for a Plutocacy! I know you don’t want to go there, but wouldn’t elitism lead to that?

  3. Charter schools also set their curriculum. This could include religious practices, political propaganda or even vilifying public organizations established to educate. Remember, if ya keep ’em dumb, it’s easier to make ’em see it your way!

    1. Regarding these talk [shock] jocks: my father always said to me, “It’s better to keep your mouth closed and let people THINK that you are dumb than to open it and PROVE it.”

  4. Here is a contrarian study of Charter Schools in Michigan performed by Stanford University:

    “New Study Shows Better Results For Public Charter School Students Compared To Students In Conventional Schools
    Stanford University report took race, poverty level, English language learner and special education status into account
    By Jarrett Skorup | Jan. 15, 2013 | Follow Jarrett Skorup on Twitter

    Charter school students do significantly better than those in traditional public schoolsA new study taking race, poverty and other areas into account when measuring performance shows that students in Michigan public charter schools do better academically than their conventional public school counterparts.

    The students who took advantage of school choice had academic growth 82 percent above the state average in reading and 72 percent above the state average in math.

    The report from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) followed more than 85,000 charter school students in 273 schools and took into account grade level, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, English language learner status, special education status, gender and prior test scores on state achievement tests.

    Michigan public charter school students had larger learning gains than any other state that the organization has studied.

    “These findings show that Michigan has set policies and practices for charter schools and their authorizers to produce consistent high quality across the state,” said Stanford University’s CREDO Director Margaret Raymond. “The findings are especially welcome for students in communities that face significant education challenges.”

    The study showed that 35 percent of charter schools did better in reading gains than conventional schools and 42 percent made better gains in math. The majority of charter schools (63 percent and 52 percent, respectively) did about the same compared to conventional schools. Only 2 percent of charter schools did worse comparatively in reading gains and 6 percent in math.

    It also showed that public charter schools are helping close the racial achievement gap: black and Hispanic students were significantly better performers in charter schools than in conventional schools when compared with their white counterparts — though all three races made large gains in charter schools. Low-income students also did better in charter schools compared to those in conventional schools.

    Public charter schools also enrolled a higher percentage of minority students, students in poverty and English language learners than the traditional public schools. The percentage of students with special needs was only slight different, making up 9 percent of the public charters versus 11 percent in conventional schools.

    “This report supports our internal data and shows the Michigan model is working, and it’s leading to significant improvements for children, especially at-risk children who are historically underserved,” said Cindy Schumacher, executive director of The Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University.

    The methodology showed that the average student gained two months of additional learning in math and reading with the largest gains taking place for students in Detroit.

    Not all the results were positives for charter schools: Students designated as special education and English language learners in charter schools had gains slightly lower than those in traditional public schools.

    The study followed students for six school years, from 2005-2006 through 2010-2011.

    In late 2011, the Michigan legislature voted to expand and eventually lift the cap on the number of public schools that can be chartered by public universities.

    A previous CREDO study looked at charter schools in 16 states in 2009 using the same methodology but with much less data found that only 17 percent of charters did better academically than conventional public schools, 46 percent did about the same and 37 percent did worse. That study has been cited by a variety of charter school opponents, including the Michigan Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – Michigan.

    To see the full report, visit http://credo.stanford.edu/.”


    1. Detroit Free Press:
      “The average charter school student in Michigan is showing more growth than demographically similar students in traditional public schools in the state, though achievement remains low overall, according to a report released Monday.”

      When you start really, really low, chances are you’ll improve somewhat just by changing ANYTHING. When I lived in the Detroit area in the 80’s, school board members had chauffeur driven limousines. The Detroit school system (like Detroit City Government in general) is totally corrupt. The kids could probably be home schooled and show improvement over what they get in the public schools.

      If the study was done in say Ottawa Hills between public and charter schools, I’d have a little more faith in the results.

      1. As you said, NWO, ‘any’ deviation from what is the normal would bring slightly elevated results. The prime factor here is parental involvement, which is that a parent makes a decision about their child that other parents do not. As a result, this action skews the norm. In other words, the child understands that his/her parent has taken an interest in them and as a result, he/she will perform at a higher level.

        This same parental involvement is seen in parochial schools in that the parent has chosen a school for the child and is therefore involved with the outcome. Catholic schools often boast about being superior when, in fact, it boils down to a parent who indicates to the child that they care about the results.

        1. I agree 100% about parental involvement, but community involvement also plays a role.

          – Discipline in schools is horrible. Ask any teacher how one misbehaving child can bring the learning process of the entire class to a dead stop. And at a certain high school located in Toledo, Ohio when the kids are sent to the office, they’d rarely go. (Of course, that might fall back on parental involvement.)

          – Then you have voters who vote down every school levy because they don’t have their own kids in public schools or school at all.

          – Throw in Federal and State Governments that require certain things, but don’t provide a way to fund said activities.

          – And penalizing a particular school financially because of achievement scores is just plain criminal.

          I mostly blame the politicians who try to micro-manage education when all they really care about is getting re-elected.

          SPOUSE’S CONTRIBUTION: A full time teacher could expect no more than a dozen parental units to show up for parent-teacher conferences over a two day period.

  5. Stressing parent(s) involvement or the child’s caretaker or guardian seems to
    be a slippery slope. While for an average child and above, it probably is true.
    Just look at our parents and the stories we heard about the time they were in school, and what our grandparents did to them if they came home in trouble or in not making grades. For me, all hell would break lose, lol, if the report card came home with a big “U” on it. Or if i had to stay after in elementary school when the folks did not have two cars and they had to send
    a taxi out to bring me home. And there was no “social” advancement to the
    next grade. My parents told me that if I didnt do well then they were not
    going to both work to pay tuition at a private school. And, yes, they were
    there for me to help with homework and all the memorization we had to
    do. If it were not for an aunt, I would have never made it through geometry,
    who would have me ride my bike over to her house two or three times a week to help with geometry homework and test preps. Wonder if it was my high school geometry teacher who was not prepared? But, you know what if I told my parents it was the teacher’s fault, they would skoff at me.. But, then, they didnt know that we had a psychol history and social studies
    teacher. OOne time, I had the proof though, and showed it to my mother. He was a fanatic about notebooks, and he had given me an D saying I didnt have what he wanted. Se called both the principal and the nut case teacher with guns blazing, so to speak, might be a political incorrect statement in these days. but the grade was changed! And, probably the only time they did somethinng like that.But then we were the average and above average examples, now we have all the socio-economic forces at play. Now, thanks to Bill Clinton and his ending FDR’s “welfare as we know it” a single parent is less at home. Who cares for the child(ren), an older sister or brother, maybe a grandparent, maybe a neighbor, and in many cases no one. It seems to me, M_R, that today if we are depending on parental involvement to improve the education system, the consequences are dire !

    1. …yes, but some charter schools demand parental involvement as a condition of enrollment. Sadly, public schools cannot demand such. Further, public schools must accept EVERY student who comes through their door.

      1. “Further, public schools must accept EVERY student who comes through their door.”

        That could be a HUGE cost savings for Charter Schools.

  6. UptheFlag- your GOP governor is so dumb, he thinks that that Soviet Union still exists! Maybe HE attended one of those Charter schools.

  7. Yup!…have the quote in the Jackson right before me lol…Now, it would be interesting to see what schools he attended…..

    1. Of course it could be that the governor listens to right-wing radio so often that his historical knowledge is overwhelmed by the ignorance heard there!

      update: Gov. Phil Bryant earned a master’s degree at Mississippi College, where he currently (while also serving as Lieutenant Governor) is a professor teaching Mississippi political history.

      [My guess is that he’s a whiz at MS History but doesn’t know shit about anything outside of the state.]

      1. I have been able to find that after high school, Bryant attended Hinds
        Community College here in Jackson and then completed his Bachelor’s
        at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. However, I have not been able to find where he went to elementary and secondary….

        1. Here’s the article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/17/phil-bryant_n_2495862.html

          Born in Moorhead (1954), Mississippi, Bryant was raised in Sunflower County, Mississippi in the Delta region, the son of Dewey C. and Estelle R. Bryant.

          Bryant’s father moved the family to Jackson while son Phil was still in high school (prior to 1971).

          The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was formally dissolved on 26 December 1991.

          Elected in 1990, Bryant served five years as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives.

  8. The following editorial appeared in the Madison County Journal, a weekly
    paper covering Madison County which is a wealthy county just north of
    Jackson, in Hinds County…Much white flight from Jackson has gone to

    “1/16/2013 6:00:00 PM
    EDITORIALS/Charter schools are the way

    As a charter school bill headed to the Senate floor on Wednesday, the education lobby was predictably at full throttle working to defeat the measure that’s expected to be approved anyway.

    Charter schools are public schools that are given autonomy from certain administrative burdens in return for a promise of higher academic performance and student achievement.

    Who can argue with that?

    Some opponents clearly are more concerned about preserving their own hides than improving education.

    With charter schools, families are empowered to choose the school that best meets the needs of their children and there is more accountability.

    What’s wrong with giving all children – particularly those who may be the most disadvantaged – a better opportunity through school choice?

    Mississippi last year again had the worst ACT scores, and the year before, nearly 80 percent of 4th graders had less than proficient reading skills.

    We have to do something. What we’re doing isn’t working. We are denying children opportunity to excel.

    The Senate bill provides for charter schools in C, D, and F districts without local school board approval, but requires local board approval in A and B districts.

    Charter school legislation is a top priority for Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn and Gov. Phil Bryant.

    The Senate passed similar bills last year by votes of 34-17 and 31-19.

    Charter measures failed in the House, in part due to, shamefully, Republican opposition from legislators representing highly conservative DeSoto and Rankin counties.

    Among the business groups supporting charter schools this year is Better Education for Mississippi, chaired by Madison County business executive Joel Bomgar, head of Ridgeland-based Bomgar, a remote support solution. Hu Meena, president of Ridgeland-based C-Spire Wireless, sits on the board along with dozens of other esteemed Mississippi executives like Leland Speed of EastGroup.

    Centralized, government control of public education hardly ever produces the best results, yet we continue to throw money.

    Charter schools are the way.”

    What you think, M_R or any one, a convincing argument?

    1. All I keep hearing is “separate but equal.” If it works so G.D. well, why aren’t they pushing it for public schools?

      I don’t think ANY child should be educated in a system that doesn’t have public oversight. And I DAMN well oppose any non-supervised school using my tax dollars! I’ve been reading about the charter schools fiasco in Louisiana and I can’t imagine the charter schools in Mississippi being much different.

      Most charter schools have one, two, or all of the following:
      – Bible based curriculum
      – High priced private school subsidized by vouchers
      – Overpaid administrators working for a for-profit company
      – TOLEDO BONUS: Run by persons who have been excised from the public schools for a variety of legitimate reasons

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