Congrats to leaders in Jackson

Published 12:00 pm Friday, April 15, 2016

By TJ Ray

Congratulations are due for the Republican Party of Mississippi. Sound the bugle! Break out the bubbly! Finally, the boys and girls in Jackson have found the magic key to fix things.

Along the way they stumbled a few times, generally winning in the end. Little hurdles were jumped. For instance, authorizing charter schools to be in 60 percent of all current school districts, without approval of the local districts. And the taking of more tax dollars from underfunded local schools to send to charter schools. Don’t forget exempting charter school teachers from the same certification process required of all public school teachers. Open the door for charter teachers to participate in PERS (which ought to be noted and questioned by all retired state employees). Killed an amendment to require charter school admission to take into consideration underserved children — let’s keep charter schools pure! Refused to consider any bill to reduce the amount of standardized testing by testing companies.

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A very recent giant step for ALEC folks was Senate Bill 2161, which passed by a 24-21 vote. Of course, being a good GOP official, the governor will sign it. Since the Charter School bill was passed three years ago, students in districts with D or F ratings could enroll in charter schools, taking with them the state dollars that should go to the local district. SB2161 adds C-rated schools to the exit options. One of the proponents of this bill said this: “Their parent or guardian decides what’s best for them, not you or me or any other senator.” Somebody should tell this fellow that the state has a Department of Education, staffed by folks trained in the field to make that decision. Obviously legislators shouldn’t be the arbiters.

One other effort to praise them for — even though it didn’t pass this session: A bill to punish teachers and administrators from exercising free political speech even outside the classroom. To their credit, they did authorize teachers to speak about religious beliefs on marriage and gay lifestyle.

Take a moment and recall two sensational moments in recent history. Remember Initiative 42 and the obscene 42A cobbled together by the bad guys? That choice almost gave the voters of the state a place in the process of governing. The forces of evil prevailed, dampening hope of the public. Remember the passage of Obamacare, the outrage over the size of the legislation and the fact that almost no one in Congress read the whole thing? Well, Mississippi is not about to let itself be outdone by dummies in Washington. In this session of the legislature well over 30,000 pages of bills were introduced. Of course, they had 50-60 days to read them when they were not in committee meetings. I dare anyone to go to a library and stack up enough books to equal 30,000 pages.

Well, as I was saying before a painful walk down memory lane diverted me, this session has provided the state’s Republican Party the magic wand to finish the dissolution of public schools without wasting all those pages on itsy bitsy pieces of the demolition. These folks just went ahead and authorized charter schools to be considered public schools. The significance of that is the state constitution that clearly prohibits the expenditure of state education resources outside public schools.

Now all the corporate gangs can queue up with their hands out for the public dole. Curiosity: Does the new law concerning “special” folks apply to schools and teachers? Can a teacher refuse to have a student in the classroom who is gay? Can a school board or administrator deny employment to a teacher because he or she is divorced? Ah, the benefits of legal shenanigans!

TJ Ray, a retired professor of English at the University of Mississippi, can be reached at