The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board approved a potential new charter’s application for a final review last week. While we are excited to see the possibility of a new charter school opening in our state, we know that there could be so many more currently operating if it weren’t for the board’s continuous roadblocks.
Clarksdale Collegiate Prep, which is wanting to extend its existing K-8 charter school to grades 9-12, met all of the necessary criteria for the second stage of the charter school approval process – an evaluation to ensure the quality of the school meets the board’s standards. It met the Stage 1 requirements, the application completion check, earlier this year and will move on to Stage 3, an independent evaluation team review, for final authorization.
However, the Authorizer Board denied the Stage 2 application for Level-Up Academy, which would have created a K-5 charter school in Greenville. The board cited funding concerns, implying the enrollment projections would not produce enough revenue to operate.
This is not the first time the Authorizer Board has denied applications for charter schools in Mississippi.
When the Mississippi Legislature enacted the “Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2013,” many hoped there would be a multitude of charter schools opening across the state as a way to give Mississippi children alternative options for their education. But this hasn’t been the case.
According to a report published last year, from 2014-2021, there have been 56 charter school applications submitted, not including the dozens of other letters of intent for potential charters. Of those 56 applications, only 8 were authorized for operation. That’s a 14% acceptance rate.
While some applications may have contained credible evidence for denial, the majority of flaws found in these applications were minor. It’s nearly impossible for any piece of writing to be perfect, let alone a 400-page document.
The stated mission of the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board is to authorize high-quality charter schools that will expand opportunities for underserved students in our state. Its job should be to work with applicants to ensure they are acceptable, not block applications that aren’t 100% perfect.
According to Magnolia Tribune, charter school students in Mississippi perform at the same level or even better than traditional public school students. Considering the fact that Mississippi’s charter school law requires charter schools to only operate in failing school districts, this shows charters are making a difference in many children’s educational journeys.
Mississippi First conducted a survey a few years ago, with results showing that over 75% of parents in charter school communities support charter schools and almost 100% of parents are satisfied with the academic progress of their children.
The data shows that charter schools are helping Mississippi children. No one is requiring students to attend charter schools, but those who want to should be able to do so. But with the board’s continuous disapproval rate, fewer children have that option.
It’s time the Authorizer Board began seeing the bigger picture, rather than the insignificant details that won’t necessarily affect a school’s performance, operation or sustainability.
It’s time the board stood by its declared mission – to authorize charter schools in order to expand opportunities for Mississippi children, not deny them.