November 12, 2013 9:53:54 AM
The Columbus Coalition for Educational Options is hosting an informational forum on charter schools tonight at the Trotter Convention Center.
The purpose of the meeting is to educate the public on charter schools, said CCEO spokesperson Kenneth McFarland.
"Information is out there but a lot of it is misinformation and a lot of it is scare tactics," McFarland said. "We have to get the word out, not just because we're looking to start a charter school, but the information about public charter schools and what Mississippi is doing with public charter schools, which is historical within its own right."
Columbus has a long-standing history of being the first in public education milestones, a tradition which CCEO hopes to continue, McFarland said.
"Why wouldn't we want to be the first?" he said.
"We had the first public school in the state of Mississippi, the first women's university. Why would we not want to be the first in public charter schools? If anyone can do it, Columbus can do it."
Dr. Kimberly Rush with the Black Alliance for Educational Options will be the keynote speaker at tonight's event. McFarland encouraged people to attend the meeting saying, "This is an informational forum -- not only do we explain, we listen."
McFarland said CCEO hopes to bring a public charter school to the Golden Triangle to reach children on a fundamental level. "We have to start over again and making sure our kids respect the process and why we're trying to teach them," he said. "My hope is that they get it. Once they get it, when you start right, you end right and we want them to have a wonderful start."
Expansion of the state's charter school system was approved in the last session of the state legislature. However, the logistics required under the new law will prevent any charter school from opening before 2015.Under the new rules, no more than 15 charter schools can open each year and a charter school can be opened only in "D" or "F" districts.
The Columbus Municipal School District current has a "D" rating. McFarland says that rating is proof that the district's students and their parents deserve another option.
"They're not doing our children very well," he said.
McFarland acknowledged that the district could lose money if a public charter school opens in Columbus. However, he said the focus should be on the children, not dollars.
"Charter schools do not take money from the public schools. It doesn't belong to the system, it belongs to the child," he said. "This is not about the system. The money belongs to the children and educating them."
He added however, that if CCEO brings a public charter school to the area, they want to work with the city school district to improve educational standards throughout the city.
"We're not here to fight them. We're here to work with them," he said.
The informational forum begins at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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