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HB 1683: Expand opportunity for establishment of charter schools

House Bill 1683, sponsored by Rep. Jansen Owen, would make several changes to Mississippi’s charter school law designed to expand the establishment of charters in the state. 

Under the proposal:

  • Mississippi’s colleges and universities would be allowed to authorize charter schools, providing another authorizer in the state beyond the Charter School Authorizer Board. 
  • Charter school applicants would not need local school board approval to open a school in a district rated C, D, or F. Currently, you can only open a school in a district rated D or F without local approval. 
  • Schools that are designed to serve students with autism, emotional disability or intellectual disability may be approved in any school district, regardless of its performance classification. 

    Mississippi’s charter school sector remains painfully small after a decade. In fact, only 10 charter schools are currently in operation in the state.  

    Why has progress been slow? It’s not because there isn’t interest from operators, both in Mississippi and beyond the state’s borders. Each year, we see a dozen or so applicants express interest. 

    And it isn’t because of a lack of interest among parents. From the limited pool of charters, we see waiting lists and impressive year-over-year retention rates. In Jackson, where we have the largest share of charter schools, 20-25% of public school students who attend a grade offered by a charter school are enrolled in charter schools. And that number is growing. 

    At the end of the day, charter schools come with built-in accountability: parents. Each year, they choose to send – or not send – their children to charter schools. What does that look like when parents have more choice in their child’s education? Let’s look at Arizona. From 2013 through 2018, more than 200 charters opened in the state. At the same time, 100 other schools closed. They weren’t closed by the state, but by parents. 

    This is the other function

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