To kill competitive Charter Schools, Desoto County Superintendent Milton Kuykendall is again joining forces with the Parents Campaign.
BY: B. Keith Plunkett
You may remember the late push by the Parent’s Campaign during the state elections last year to defeat Republicans with a slanted “grading system” of state elected officials. The message to teachers and school administrators, provided with the help of state superintendents, was a last minute attempt to keep education reformers from making it to the state capitol.
The Parent’s Campaign provided a power point presentation to government school administrators from across the state who then held meetings to present the information to teachers using school property, an illegal use of school resources.
The move followed a tough primary election for many Republicans over the subject of education with Superintendents using school resources in a questionable way to support their preferred candidates.
In August of 2011, Superintendent of Desoto County Schools Milton Kuykendall openly supported Tate Reeves over Senator Billy Hewes for Lt. Governor, even going so far as to use school buses to bring the school band to a Reeves campaign event. He also used resources to attack then Senator Doug Davis, then chairman of appropriations, who had voted along with Senator Hewes and others to not fully fund the controversial Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).
Reeves went on to win, largely due to vote tally’s in Desoto County and the support of Kuykendall. There was also the use of some last minute misleading mailers on education strategically sent to residents of some of Mississippi’s larger school districts.
Davis was defeated by Kuykendall recruit Chris Massey. Senator Massey now serves on the Senate Education Committee, appointed to that position by Lt. Governor Tate Reeves.
Education funding and education policy were key issues in the 2011 elections, as they are in most state elections.
Once elected, Reeves passed over some long-time education reformers when appointing members to the Education Committee. He appointed Senator Gray Tollison to chair the group. Tollison, you may remember, switched to the Republican Party just two days after being elected as a Democrat. The press conference held at the State Republican Headquarters in Jackson featured the new Republican Senator backed by none other than Lt. Governor Elect Tate Reeves.
The Senate Education Committee is now on the verge of a very important education decision, the vote on a bill to allow charter schools, and Kuykendall and The Parents Campaign are once again partnering to rally government school employees using taxpayer funded resources.
They are calling in their favors.
An email went out last Thursday from The Parents Campaign Director Nancy Loome to Kuykendall asking for help in getting calls to the capitol switchboard:
The Senate Education Committee will vote on the charter school bill on Tuesday morning.
WE NEED YOUR HELP TO GET THE BILL AMENDED to achieve our goal of improving student achievement and providing good options for kids who are trapped in chronically underperforming schools.
* RESTRICT CHARTERS TO CHRONICALLY UNDERPERFORMING SCHOOL ZONES –
We cannot afford to create /more/ schools – more administrators, more buildings, more overhead – in places where we already have excellent public schools.
* PROHIBIT VIRTUAL CHARTER SCHOOLS – It is astounding that anyone would want to allow virtual charters into Mississippi. In other states, virtual charter schools have moved student achievement backward while their executives have pocketed a fortune – /in state tax dollars/! Read about it here.
* REQUIRE A PROVEN TRACK RECORD OF SUCCESS FROM CHARTER SCHOOL
MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS – We can’t afford to waste scarce taxpayer dollars on inexperienced “mom and pop” charter organizers who don’t know what they are doing.
* ENSURE THAT FOR-PROFIT COMPANIES CANNOT RUN CHARTER SCHOOLS –
For-profits cut corners on education to rake in greater profits. The bill has a loophole that will allow this.
PLEASE CALL BEFORE TUESDAY – AND ASK YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO CALL, TOO.
LT. GOVERNOR TATE REEVES 601.359.3200
YOUR SENATOR: SEN. CHRIS MASSEY
CAPITOL: 601.359.3252 PERSONAL: 901.550.0334
CAPITOL SWITCHBOARD: 601.359.3770
Your legislators really need to hear from you on this issue. Most of them don’t know a lot about charter schools, and they need to know where their constituents stand. This is a very important vote for public education.
You can get more information about The Parents’ Campaign’s position on charter schools here – HOW CHARTER SCHOOLS COULD HELP THE CHILDREN OF MISSISSIPPI WHOSE NEED IS GREATEST and HOW CHARTER SCHOOLS COULD TAKE US BACKWARD IF NOT GOVERNED UNDER VERY STRONG CHARTER SCHOOL LEGISLATION. Please make those calls. Our kids are counting on us!
Kuykendall then forwarded the email to hundreds of contacts in the Desoto County School District on their official Desoto County School emails with this message:
Make sure you tell your staff and PTA people that I have talked to Senator Chris Massey who is on the education committee. Senator Massey is 100% on board to support the amendment that charter schools can only be placed in unsuccessful school districts. The Senate bill allows charter schools in successful school districts. Spend your time calling the people listed that is not on our side about this issue.
Supporters of Charter Schools know it will be a godsend for those in underserved areas, but to only allow competition in specifically designated areas of the state in order to protect the politically connected is a slap in the face of ALL kids and parents. It shows that there are those in the education establishment of the state that still believe they know better than parents what is in the best interest of children.
But there is something even more sinister at work here. This is a political move again using state education resources to protect the fiefdoms of people like Kuykendall. It’s also a calculated attempt to give the appearance of support for charter schools, to protect the golden goose that continues to lay big golden eggs for people like Nancy Loome, and to minimize the competitive market forces that would take away their political power.
With a Republican controlled House, Senate and Executive, there was no doubt some charter schools would pass. The Parents Campaign and their allies had no choice but to embrace the idea in an attempt to co-opt the issue.
This is nothing more than an attempt to hold on to power in the face of a school choice movement and to undermine charter school effectiveness so that when the opportunity comes in the future, legislation can be undone.
Mississippi parents and children deserve real choice, and freedom from government school restriction across the state. Children are individuals, they learn differently. An assembly-line one-size-fits-all approach is what got us into this mess.
If parents believe that charter schools will work in their community and for their children, then they should have that choice no matter where they live, even in Desoto County.
- Bill would overhaul charter school rules (mississippipep.wordpress.com)
- Cecil Brown: Charter schools not a ‘silver bullet,’ but something to explore (mississippipep.wordpress.com)
- Political Payback? Lt. Governor Tate Reeves leaves education reformer Senator Michael Watson off education committee. (mississippipep.wordpress.com)
- Mississippi can’t afford to exclude charter schools (mississippipep.wordpress.com)
- Callen: School Choice for All Children (mississippipep.wordpress.com)