Charter Schools Could Impact Local District

Chrestman

By Jack Gurner
Reporter


WATER VALLEY – The local school district has been underfunded by just over $2 million dollars for fiscal years 2011 through 2013, Superintendent Kim Chrestman told school board members at their September meeting.
Chrestman warned that there is also the possibility that the Mississippi Legislature will change the formula to further lower the amount of money per student provided to districts through Mississippi Adequate Education Program funding.
“As we already know, there has been a failure to provide full funding of MAEP for years,” Chrestman said. “The new formula would likely provide less money than the current formula which still does not provide equity or adequacy.”
MAEP funding was one of several state level issues that Chrestman discussed during the Sept. 10 meeting. Another was charter schools, which Chrestman believes could directly impact the Water Valley School District. “The money follows the student,” he said.
Chrestman explained charter schools can be set up anywhere in the state, even in successful, highly successful, and star school districts.  The stated purpose is to provide a high performing school for students who are from low performing schools/school districts.  “There seems to be no desire from the legislature to restrict charter schools to low performing school districts.”
The superintendent gave an example of how a charter school might impact Water Valley if one were put just west of Oxford along Hwy. 6.  Students from South Panola, Oxford, Lafayette County, Water Valley, Coffeeville, etc. could apply for admission because residency would not be an issue, he said.  
“It is not our belief that it would be the poverty or under performing students who would apply, because many of these would not be able to provide transportation to and from the school.”  
Chrestman believes that the school would draw the better, higher functioning students, while the poorer, lower performing students would remain in the public education system.  “Yes, the school would have to meet the demographic statistics, but these would be filled by the better students who meet those demographics.”
Chrestman emphasized that he is not against charter schools. “There are valid reasons to have charter schools. But, I am concerned about the way the legislation is written and the effect it could have on Water Valley Schools.”
Another form of the charger school is the virtual, he said, and state funds would also go with students involved with them. “Virtual charter schools would not have to be housed in the state of Mississippi and would again draw public funds away from public schools,” said the superintendent.  “This could provide state ‘funding’ for parents and students who choose to home school.”
His final comment on state issues involved stability of the state retirement system. “A strong, protected, actuarially sound, public employees’ retirement system is essential to maintaining stability in the workforce of our public schools.”
The full text of Chrestman’s Superintendent’s report is below.

Superintendent’s Report


On a historical note, on August 31, 1962, the Water Valley High School opened with grades 7-12 at the building on Market Street.  August 31, 2012 marks the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the “new” school building.

I would really like to emphasize my appreciation to the Davidson Elementary School staff and Principal Chester Drewery for their implementation of the Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS).  The new program will focus on the 80% of students who behave appropriately and reward them for their good behavior.  By accenting the positive and eliminating the negative, Davidson Elementary School anticipates better behavior, better grades, and reduced discipline referrals.  This should be a “win-win” for all, parents, students and teachers.

The Preschool Readiness Program is up and running.  Mrs. Sally Willmann, facilitator, is expected to have approximately 90 students from Head Start and 50 students from local day care centers in an effort to help prepare 3 and 4 year old students to be school ready when they enter Kindergarten.  She is presently working with several daycare centers and hope all will be participating soon. The technology used in this program was funded through an ARC Grant.

Davidson Elementary School welcomes nine Ole Miss student teachers.  These student teachers are assisting DES teachers on Mondays and Wednesdays this fall and will be helping five days a week in the second semester.  These student teachers have become a valuable asset to DES.

At Water Valley High School, congratulations are in order for the Water Valley Football team with wins over Vardaman (14-0), Independence (41-0), Coffeeville (49-13), and Calhoun City (38-21), and Bruce (17-16).

Seniors will take their Senior Composite Pictures on Monday the 17th.
 
The school will recognize “Constitution Day” on Monday the 17th as required by law.
 
Homecoming Week is the week of the 17th with activities throughout the week including a downtown Pep Rally sponsored by the Main Street Association on Thursday evening and crowning of the Homecoming Queen prior to the football game against J.Z. George on Friday the 21st. 

There are several key issues at the State Level that I would like to draw attention to that I believe will have major impact on public education in Mississippi and could directly impact the Water Valley School District. 
• First is the possibility of the Mississippi Legislature changing the formula to lower the cost per student that is provided to the districts through MAEP funding.  As we already know, there has been a failure to provide full funding of MAEP for years. The new formula would likely provide less money than the current formula which still does not provide equity or adequacy.  According to information provided by Southern Echo, Water Valley School District has been underfunded in MAEP funds for Fiscal Years 2011-2013 approximately $2,116,257. 
• Second is Charter Schools.  The money follows the student.  Charter schools can be set up anywhere in the state, even in successful, highly successful, and star school districts.  The stated purpose is to provide a high performing school for students who are from low performing schools/school districts.  There seems to be no desire from the legislature to restrict Charter Schools to low performing schools/school districts.  An example of how it might impact Water Valley would be to put a Charter School just West of Oxford along Highway 6.  Students from South Panola, Oxford, Lafayette County, Water Valley, Coffeeville, etc. could apply for admission because residency would not be an issue.  It is not our belief that it would be the poverty or underperforming students who would apply, because many of these would not be able to provide transportation to and from the school.  It would draw the better, higher functioning students, while the poorer, lower performing students would remain in the public education system.  Yes, the school would have to meet the demographic statistics, but these would be filled by the better students who meet those demographics.
• Third is Virtual Charter Schools.  Again, the money would follow the students.  Virtual Charter Schools would not have to be housed in the state of Mississippi and would again draw public funds away from public schools.  This could provide state “funding” for parents and students who choose to home school.
• Fourth is the stability of the State Retirement System.  A strong, protected, actuarially sound, public employees’ retirement system is essential to maintaining stability in the workforce of our public schools.

On another matter at the state level, Mississippi has seen a slight increase in its graduation rate and a slight decrease in its dropout rate, according to information officially released today by the state Department of Education. There have been similarly small improvements in student performance on state standardized tests.

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