Charter Schools in Mississippi overcome another hurdle

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Charter schools in Mississippi are closer to reality. On Tuesday, the state House approved a House-Senate compromise on the Charter Schools Bill. The Senate must now decide its fate.

The bill would create a seven-member Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board to oversee the process. Three members of the Board would be appointed by the governor, three by the lieutenant governor, and one by the state Superintendent of Education.

The bill would allow the Board to approve charter schools in districts with a "D" or an "F" on the state's rating system. It can approve up to 15 qualified charter applications a year. Based on last year's accountability results, the only school district in South Mississippi that could be affected by the bill is Moss Point, which received a "D" grade.

If applicants want to set up a charter school in districts graded "A", "B", or "C", they can only do so if the school boards in those districts approve it first. The Charter School Board must also give its approval.

Charter schools are part of the public education system, and they receive state funding based on enrollment. They cannot charge tuition. They can't reject students who live within the district's boundaries, and in cases where too many students apply to the school, a lottery process would be used. Students would not be allowed to cross district lines to attend a charter school in another district.

What makes charter schools different from traditional schools is they operate independently. Basically, they are not subject to the rules and regulations of the Mississippi Board of Education and the School Board where the charter schools are located. However, charter schools must still meet all state and federal accountability and accreditation requirements.

If signed into law, the Mississippi Charter Schools Act would go into effect July first. WLOX News tried to contact local superintendents seeking comment on the bill, but a majority of school districts are on spring break this week.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.