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Reeves among 18 governors who oppose changes to federal charter school rules

Governor Tate Reeves
Governor Tate Reeves(Source: WDAM)
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 4:06 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A group of 18 governors, including Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, are urging the president to hold off on making sweeping changes to rules that could limit funding to new and existing charter schools.

Monday, Reeves announced that he had joined 17 other governors in signing a letter in opposition to sweeping changes being proposed to federal charter school regulations.

The letter states that the barriers being proposed by the White House would reduce educational options for millions of low-income families and exacerbate, rather than eliminate inequities in the education system.

“Charter schools have been a positive pathway for millions of students around the nation,” Reeves said in a post on social media. “Now, the Biden Administration is attempting to unfairly strip funding for these schools.”

Among changes, the White House is proposing cutting federal grants to charter schools managed by for-profit groups.

Mississippi statute mandates that charter schools be nonprofit organizations.

Four charter schools in Jackson are owned by a nonprofit, RePublic Schools Inc., including Reimagine Prep, Joel E. Smilow Prep, Smilow Collegiate and Revive Collegiate, according to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website.

While RePublic is a nonprofit, it was unknown if day-to-day operations were outsourced to for-profit companies.

Officials with RePublic were not immediately available for comment.

Another charter school in Jackson, Midtown Public Charter School, is owned and operated by Midtown Partners, Inc., according to the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board.

The Biden Administration also is seeking to require charter schools to collaborate with existing school districts in the community and that applicants for charter school startup grants show that existing districts in the community suffer from “over-enrollment.”

In their letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, though, the governors argue that the new standard “fails to consider that a driving force in parents’ decisions is the desire for their children to attend a school that meets their child’s unique needs.”

They go on to say that “it cannot be ignored that enrollment is down in many big-city school districts due to parents choosing to leave closed or persistently failing schools.”

The governors also call out the shortened comment period for the rule changes.

“Traditionally, we have seen the comment period for rulemaking to be at least 60 days, providing greater opportunity for feedback from parents. However, in this case, the administration is allowing approximately one month for input,” they wrote. “We believe a sustained and transparent process for rulemaking will yield better regulations and consensus and will give parents a greater opportunity to engage in the development of policies that deeply impact them.”

Governors are asking the president to extend the public comment period, remove changes that would limit local control of charter schools and delay changes until the next fiscal year “so that the current program can be administered under rules that are long-standing and well understood by applicants.”

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