SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - It's a phrase you can expect to hear this legislative session -- charter schools. Governor elect-Phil Bryant is pushing for charter schools in Mississippi, saying it's time to stop accepting failing schools that don't give students the opportunity they deserve.
So what exactly is a charter school?
It's up to the state legislature to spell out the conditions of a charter school. Basically, it's a school that can be run by a company, non-profit organization, even teachers and parents. The purpose is to let a private group to come in to turn around a public school that's in academic trouble.
Charter schools are K-12 schools that receive public money, but they don't have to follow some of the rules and regulations that apply to public school districts. However, charter schools must still meet state testing requirements and reach the academic goals stated in the agreement.
The operators have a lot more flexibility. For instance, whoever runs the school can set up their own curriculum, conduct their own hiring and firing, and if they choose to have classes on Saturdays, they can do so.
Since charter schools are still part the public education system, they can't charge tuition. And, the admissions process depends on the legislation.
The charter school concept is not new to Mississippi. Right now, the only way to have a charter school is for parents to vote, then petition the state Board of Education to convert their child's school into a charter school.
The governor-elect's proposal would create an open charter school law, and it would only impact "failing" or "at-risk of failing" schools. Right now, none of the schools along the Mississippi Gulf Coast fall into those categories.