State leaders cross the river for education reform - - Jackson, MS

State leaders cross the river for education reform

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Helena, Arkansas (Mississippi News Now) -

Just across the Mighty Mississippi in the small delta town of Helena, Arkansas, there's a system in place which many state leaders want to bring back across the river.

"If it can work in Helena Arkansas, I'm convinced it can work in the state of Mississippi as well," said Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves.

It's a publicly funded charter school system which Reeves, superintendent of education Lynn House and a handful of senators got an up close view of. With about 1,000 students, the KIPP Delta Public School system has been a blessing for parents like Marshall Dalencourt who has three kids at KIPP.

"It has challenged my kids to be more committed, to be more focused and to think bigger," said Dalencourt.

Dalencourt says she wasn't satisfied with her kids traditional school and since making the switch two years ago, she's had no regrets. It's that type of choice Reeves says Mississippi is critically lacking.

"We need to give this opportunity to as many kids in our state as possible and that's what we're going to fight for," said Reeves.

School directors like Amanda Johnson say the success in the classroom is proven, with KIPP students often out performing their peers. Johnson says it all comes down to options.

"I think what's important is that students have a choice and parents have a choice of where they can send their student to school," said Johnson.

A sticking point at the state capitol is allowing public money to flow into a charter school. Reeves says allowing it, doesn't mean less money for traditional public schools.

"We've got school districts in our state that are spending significantly more money per child than this KIPP school and yet at this KIPP school, the results are not even comparable to what's going on in many districts," said Reeves.

By bringing lawmakers across the river, Reeves says it opens their eyes to a new educational frontier which he wants spread across the state.

"In anything there is the fear of the unknown and there's so many members of the legislature that don't really know what we're talking about when we talk about public charter schools," said Reeves.

Reeves says charter school legislation will be a top priority during next year's legislative session. Earlier this year, a charter school bill died in committee.







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