Jackson, Miss. (WJTV) — A forum held Friday morning at Koinonia Coffee House in Jackson focused on the possible takeover of Jackson Public Schools. The meeting was a good mix of community leaders, neighbors, and parents who wanted answers.
OurJPS, a group opposing state takeover, is distributing a fact sheet, claiming somethings that are true. But there’s also conflicted information.
For instance, there is a claim that JPS policies on students’ and parents’ rights may be abolished. The Mississippi Department of Education says that’s not true and that there will always be policies about student and parent rights.
Dr. Melinda Todd, a parent with one son still in a JPS school and two graduates, says parents do not have enough information, “If they choose to take their children out, the funds follow the student. that’s making our district lacking in funds.”
That claim is true. If JPS loses accreditation, students can transfer to other school districts, if the district will accept them. State funds follow those students.
But another claim by OurJPS is that local Ad Valorem taxes may be sent to other school districts. MDE says that’s false.
Other claims focus on the fate of district employees. Many are worried about how to fill vacant teachings positions. “There’s a teacher shortage across the State of Mississippi,” says Tyrone Hendrix, Executive Director of the Mississippi Association of Educators. “That’s not a Jackson Public Schools specific problem.”
Hendrix says JPS could work with MDE on a plan to better recruit teachers. Thursday, State Superintendent Dr. Carey Wright told WJTV that, after a state takeover, teachers may be more inclined to work in the district if they feel safe, supported and that they’re able to do what they were hired to do.
“Go and talk to educators in Jackson Public Schools and I think the answer you’ll get is they are able to teach right now,” says Hendrix. “They try their hardest. The problem comes in with the under funding of schools. That’s a major deterrent to recruiting educators in the state of Mississippi. Another is, quite frankly, the high number of state tests that our teachers must teach for.”
At the conclusion of the forum, people were asked to sign a petition, asking Gov. Phil Bryant not to declare a state takeover. YOU CAN VIEW THE PETITION HERE.
WJTV sent the list of claims from OurJPS to MDE. You’ll find the claims (in bold) and the response from MDE (in parentheses).
- The JPS School Board will be abolished. The State Board of Education will be the governing body. (True)
- Local control will be lost. The Mayor and the City Council will lose the right to appoint and confirm School Board Members. (Temporarily, until local control is returned)
- JPS schools may be subject to closure, and, or, consolidation. (Schools can be consolidated under local control or state control.)
- JPS policies on students’ and parents’ rights may be abolished. (No, there will always be policies about student and parent rights.)
- Extracurricular activities and special programs may be eliminated. (Extracurricular activities wouldn’t be impacted unless JPS loses accreditation — something that hasn’t happened yet.)
- All JPS principals, teachers, support staff, and administrators become “at-will” employees. Meaning they may be fired for any reason. (They do become at-will but personnel decisions will be made by the interim superintendent.)
- The Interim JPS School Superintendent will be fired. An interim superintendent who reports to the State Board of Education will be appointed. (Yes)
- Local ad valorem tax dollars (your tax dollars) may be sent to other school districts. (False)
- There is no track record of academic success in districts that have been taken over by the state. In fact, most students and districts suffer after a takeover occurs. (You should look at what happened in Aberdeen and Tunica.)
- State takeovers diminish community engagement and involvement, necessary ingredients to enhance district and student success. (State takeovers do not diminish community engagement and involvement. The exact opposite should take place. To increase student academic achievement and opportunities, parent and community involvement will be encouraged and welcomed.)