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Senate OKs charter school bill

JACKSON (AP) — After two years of struggle, a bill to make it easier to create charter schools is on its way to Gov. Phil Bryant.

The State Senate voted 34-18 Wednesday to approve House Bill 369, which widens legal authority for charter schools.

House members approved the bill Tuesday. Bryant, a Republican, says he’ll sign it, along with a series of other education bills that lawmakers have given final approval in recent days.

“Our children and our economy will reap the benefits of these improvement measures, and I look forward to signing these acts into law,” Bryant said in a statement.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, said he had hoped to preserve more elements of the Senate proposal in a compromise with the House. But he said senators decided to adopt the House bill rather than risk failure for a second straight year.

“It’s not the bill that I would have liked,” Tollison said. “But it is a bill, after discussion and other effort, that we decided was the best bill we were going to get.”

Boards in districts graded A, B and C would get vetoes over charter schools in their boundaries. Students couldn’t cross district lines to attend a charter school in another district.

While House opponents didn’t mount a debate Tuesday, Senate opponents debated for about 45 minutes.

Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, said he feared supporters were using charter schools as an opening wedge for a voucher system. He also said multiple systems of schools could “do away with the notion that the public school is part of the fiber of the community.”