Charter schools could be on the way for Mississippi - - The News for South Mississippi

Charter schools could be on the way for Mississippi

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The topic of conversation during the senate education committee hearing Thursday morning was charter schools and how the state should go about making them a part of the educational system.  

"This is an opportunity for us to look at what other states have done and take those best practices in other states and craft a law that would give us a foundation to have good charter schools beginning with the state law that we pass this year in the legislature," said committee chairman Sen. Gray Tollison of Oxford.

Lawmakers will be taking up legislation on whether to change the state's charter school law which currently requires a school to be rated as low performing for three consecutive years before it can be given a charter status, which is known as conversion charters.

New proposals would allow for open charters which would be the creation of charter schools, instead of just converting those failing schools.  

"We are at a critical point in terms of existing legislation governing charter schools in this state," said state Superintendent of Education Dr. Tom Burnham.

Burnham says currently in Mississippi 140 schools are failing and on the path to becoming a charter. As a charter school, they are publicly funded, but privately operated under the same educational standards as traditional schools. They're also given more budgetary freedom in exchange for high academic performance.

Burnham told lawmakers to be mindful of management and make sure there's a revocation process included in any legislation for schools to loose charter status if performance isn't achieved.  

"Why would you let it continue year after year if it isn't successful," said Burnham.

Across the state line in Arkansas, Scott Shirey with KIPP Delta Schools, a charter system, says he would be interested in expanding into Mississippi if open charters were allowed.  

"We know that there are traditional public schools who do a fantastic job but even within those traditional public schools there are children falling through the cracks," said Shirey.

If allowed, Burnham says the State Board of Education would like to be the authorizing party for charter schools, but at this point, proposals are just proposals until lawmakers turn them into law.  

"Until legislation is passed we're like everyone else, we're just trying to determine what's going to happen," said Burnham.

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