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Miss. Charter Bill Strikes Online Schools From Consideration

From guest blogger Hannah Rose Sacks.

The Mississippi Senate passed the a hotly debated charter school bill this week that could pave the way for the independent but publicly financed schools in any district across the state. The measure now moves to the House.

While the bill would offer broader educational choice to Mississippi residents, one option not on the table is online charter schools.

The bill, introduced by Republican State Senator Gray Tollison, originally included language providing for the creation of virtual charter schools in addition to brick- and- mortar charter schools. This proved to be a controversial topic, reports The Associated Press:

Virtual charters have been under attack by Nancy Loome, executive director of the Parents' Campaign. She and others, including state Superintendent Tom Burnham, say virtual charter schools have poor records of success.

"The data is going to tell you over and over that expecting young people to work independently, your rate of success is not going to be very good," Burnham said, citing early struggles in the state's own online program."

Democratic State Senator David Blount proposed an amendment to remove the language, in an effort to discourage Mississippi from experimenting with online schools. Blount told reporters, "there's just not the evidence there that virtual charter schools have been successful."

The committee passed the bill with Blount's amendment removing the option of virtual charter schools. However, committee members also noted that the state continues to have a $600,000 contract with Connections Academy, which makes free online education available to all public school students. That program is a residual offering from post-Katrina school- improvement projects.

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