Charter schools are nonprofit educational organizations that are public schools. As such, they:
- cannot charge tuition.
- administer the same state tests and are rated under the same system as regular public schools.
- must accept all students who apply, unless there’s not enough room, in which case they draw names, giving all students an equal chance.
- are subject to the same restrictions on teaching religious doctrine as regular public schools.
- may not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, disability or other categories – including academic or athletic ability.
- are subject to civil rights, health, and safety laws.
- are subject to an independent audit of their finances, just as school districts are.
The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board:
- evaluates the qualifications of charter school applicants and approves qualified applications.
- oversees the schools to ensure they fulfill the provisions of the charter contract.
- is made up of 7 appointees: 3 by the governor, 3 by the lt. governor, and 1 by the Board of Education. Appointments are made with advice and consent of Senate.
- may approve no more than 15 charters per year.
Charter schools may open, or existing schools could convert to charter status, in all school districts. However, school boards in districts rated A, B, or C may veto the approval of an application for a charter school that would be located in their district. They will only be open to students who live in the district where the charter school is located.
An application to open a charter school must include evidence of need and community support for a charter school. Applicants must also provide evidence of a record of success in raising student achievement.
Every charter contract is a performance contract that must measure and improve: student achievement and growth; achievement gaps; college and career readiness, and other factors. If the goals outlined in the charter contract are reached, the school may continue operating. If the goals are not reached, the school is closed by the Authorizer Board. In exchange for that accountability, the schools are freed from many state and local regulations regarding their budgets, schedules, curricula, etc. They are judged on student achievement, not on regulatory compliance.
No students or teachers are assigned to charter schools by a school district. Parents choose to enroll their children, and teachers choose whether to apply for employment.
Charter schools must reflect the composition of the underserved population of the school district where the charter school is located.
At least 75 percent of charter school teachers must have gone through the official Mississippi teacher certification process, and within three years of the schoolâ€™s charter being approved, all teachers must be certified. Under federal law, every teacher and administrator must hold a college degree and demonstrate competency in the subject they will be teaching, such as passing the Praxis. The Education Employment Procedures Law does not apply to charter school employees. Charter school employees are not eligible to participate in PERS, but charter schools may offer their own retirement and benefits plans.
Funding follows the child to a charter public school in much the same way as funding follows the child to a regular public school. This includes per pupil local funding except for local taxes devoted to paying off school bonds and certain other local obligations.
Private schools are prohibited from converting to charter schools. Existing public schools are eligible to convert to charter status.
Virtual charter schools are not included in this bill. Charter schools may utilize online courses, just as regular public schools may now do.
For-profit companies are not allowed to operate a charter school on their own nor under contract with the school.