By The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss
The Picayune Item
JACKSON, Miss. —
The Jackson School Board was wise, if only narrowly so. By voting 4-3 to accept the state’s offer of getting eight months more to fully comply with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in exchange for agreeing to some stipulations, Jackson Public Schools will remain accredited through at least mid-2013.
The three school board members who continued to express concerns about JPS giving in to the state’s offer and voluntarily signing away the system’s rights to due process certainly had a valid point. Giving up rights to the state is “bad policy for JPS,” said JPS school board member Tim Collins, who joined Beneta Burt and George Schimmel in voting against accepting the state’s offer.
But while it’s true that voluntarily giving up rights, or control, to the state in order to maintain accreditation for eight more months might seem like a bad idea on the surface, let’s not forget that JPS has had more than 2 1/2 years to fully comply with the IDEA.
That should have been long enough. ...
If the Jackson School Board had not accepted the state’s offer by the end of Oct. 30, post-season activities would not have been allowed. The Jackson School Board may have maintained control, but thousands of students who had worked hard to compete and win would have lost.
And that would not have been fair.
That’s undoubtedly why four Jackson School Board members — Kisiah Nolan, Monica Gilmore-Love, Otha Burton and Linda Rush — voted to accept the state’s offer, albeit with some likely trepidation.
But if we have learned anything from this experience, it’s that the State Board of Education should reassess its penalties for districts that lose accreditation or are taken over by the state.
That’s why the State Board of Education needs to find other ways to punish non-conforming school boards and systems. This issue is likely to come back up again, either in Jackson or elsewhere. And students should not have to pay the price.