Wednesday, September 20, 2017
JACKSON After meeting with Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba this morning, Gov. Phil Bryant said today that he does not plan to "rush judgment" on the Mississippi Board of Education's proposal to take over Jackson Public Schools, which awaits his signature.
"We're not going to rush the judgment on this. This is a very important decision that will be made. I certainly respect the (state) board's decision to send me that request for emergency, but we are going to make sure that we know exactly what the condition of the city of Jackson public school system is now—that that wasn't just a snapshot that occurred," Bryant told reporters at the Capitol this morning.
"We'll make a decision when we feel comfortable that we have completed our due diligence."
The governor was at the Capitol this morning to announce the launch of a commemorative Coca-Cola bicentennial bottle, designed in honor of Mississippi's 200th birthday.
Bryant said he met with Lumumba this morning about the decision and met with JPS Interim Superintendent Freddrick Murray yesterday, calling him a "very impressive individual." Bryant said his staff is reviewing the Mississippi Department of Education's investigative audit as well as responses from the City of Jackson.
The reasons the JPS takeover is a bad idea.
"Each time we take over a school, it's not something that I enjoy doing," Bryant told reporters. "It is a burden to our state; it is a burden to the (Mississippi) Department of Education—they have many duties they have to carry on so this will be an additional one. So absolutely, I am very careful about entering into any takeover by the state of Mississippi, and that is certainly not something I look forward to doing."
When asked about the federal lawsuit, which 30 JPS parents filed on Monday, and if it would hinder his timing, the governor said he did not think so but did say a judge could issue a stay that might affect that.
"What will more importantly affect my decision is what do we know? What does my staff have the opportunity to review? How comfortable do we feel that the proper steps have been taken?" Bryant said. "I have total confidence in Dr. (Carey) Wright and her staff, but again it is not a rubber stamp—this is something we are very careful about before we enter into a takeover of any school district." Carey Wright is the state superintendent of education.
The governor said that funding is not the issue; it is whether JPS "is a failing school system."
"I met with a delegation yesterday of legislators—House members and senators—and told them that this is on us," Bryant said. "A decade ago we should have been looking at the Jackson Public School system when we knew that it was not performing at the level that it should be and began to do something about it. Now, now that the alarm has been sounded, everyone wants to rush in: where were they when we needed them a decade ago?"
If the governor signs the "emergency" resolution from the state board, he will dissolve the JPS School Board of Trustees and install Dr. Margie Pulley as interim superintendent, ousting Murray. Bryant gave no indication on timing of when he would make a final decision.
"I think if the State does come over and take control, they will see very little change in their life," Bryant said of JPS families. "There will be no change at the local level—there may be some new principals or more teachers brought in, but the students will not see any difference nor will the parents."
Read more about the proposed takeover of JPS at jfp.ms/jpstakeover. Follow Arielle Dreher at @arielle_amara on Twitter for #jpstakeover updates.