He doesn't believe that charter schools are a magic bullet, but he does believe charter schools can be an answer to some poorly performing education instruction.

Like proponents of charter schools in Mississippi, he emphasizes the accountability of charter schools, that if they don't perform, they'll be shut down.

He recognizes that some people oppose charter schools because they fear it will take money away from other public schools, but he believes parents, teachers and civic leaders need broad leeway to innovate.

He isn't a Republican; he is President Barack Obama.

I thought about President Obama's support of charter schools when I read that Mississippi House Democratic Leader Bobby Moak pointed to the defeat of charter school legislation as the Democrat's principal success in this past session.

Over the years, Mississippi Republicans have emphasized policy links between Mississippi Democrats and national Democrats to persuade independents and conservative Democrats their true home is in the Mississippi Republican Party. With charter schools, Mississippi Democrats can proudly show they oppose their national leaders.

They don't just disagree with President Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who wrote in an Alabama newspaper after that state defeated a charter school bill two years ago, "We believe charter schools can play a strong and significant role in improving education and offering high-quality options in underserved communities."

The previous Democratic nominee for President, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, wrote about charter schools in his book, "A Call to Service." Kerry discussed a charter school in Massachusetts with a student body of 80 percent Hispanic students (two-thirds of which qualify for federal subsidized school lunches) that achieved the best scores in the city and had a waiting list of over 500 children.

"I believe it's time to stop viewing innovative approaches as anomalies or threats to traditional public schools and begin seeing them as part of the future of public education," Kerry wrote.

Lest you think charter schools are a national Democratic plot, the current and previous Republican presidential nominees - Mitt Romney, John McCain, George W. Bush - all support charter schools as well.

Not all Democrats in Mississippi oppose charter schools.

One of the most vocal advocates and proponents of charter school legislation is Rep. Chuck Espy (D-Clarksdale).

Not all Republicans in Mississippi support charter schools.

The legislation was defeated with the help of Republicans mostly from DeSoto County.

Had Republican leadership not made charter schools an agenda item and had Democratic leadership not made charter schools a priority to defeat, I'm sure there would have been some fiery speeches on the House floor decrying the rejection of a tool for better schools in the Delta at the hands of legislators in majority white suburbs.

Considering one legislator described workers compensation reform legislation as "worse than slavery; worse than lynching," I shudder to think of the rhetoric which would have been used against those denying education opportunities to areas of the state with majority black students.

Those supporting racial reconciliation can be pleased that, unlike workers compensation apparently, race has no role in Mississippi's education policy discussions.

Perhaps high performing school districts fear the competition a charter school would bring if a company or group wanted to create a school that attends to the basics but specializes in performing arts, or a career in health care or foreign language and international business.

Why would Mississippi students need those advantages and why would parents want those opportunities for their children when they already have a high performing school? I hope with charter school legislation such schools would be available, but grants and foundations that support nonprofits dedicated to charter schools typically seek a different geography.

It is that geography that likely motivates Espy to support charter schools. He knows just across the Mississippi River in the Arkansas Delta, students and parents are achieving in the KIPP Delta Public Schools - a charter school network.

Students are improving their grades above their regional peers, and in many subjects equaling or surpassing the state average.

Their ACT scores exceed the state and national average. As a result, not only are high school graduation rates increasing for these charter school students, but so is college admittance and attendance.

These public charter schools bring in additional funding beyond tax dollars to benefit students and create a community of learning. There are failures of course and they have not solved all the education problems of Arkansas. But because of charter schools in Arkansas, hundreds of students are getting a better education and have a brighter future in regards to college and career.

On our side of the Mississippi River, charter school opportunities do not exist in the Mississippi Delta and they will not for at least another year. That, according to the Mississippi Democratic leadership, is their principal success of the 2012 legislative session.



Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.