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Mississppi’s Charter School Dos and Don’ts

By Annie Gilbertson | Published 21 Feb 2012 05:22pm | comments
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The Mississippi legislature is making adjustments to a bill that would expand charter school operating capacity, but it's leaving managing organizations with a long list of dos and don'ts.  MPB's Southern Education Desk reporter, Annie Gilbertson, reports that list could be about to get longer.

Don't let private schools convert to publicly funded charters.  Do let lotteries take place where seats are in high demand.  These are just a couple of the rules charter school organizations will come under if new legislation is voted into law.  Experts say charter school success depends on a successful balance of state regulation and school independence.

At the Mississippi Senate Education Committee meeting yesterday, lawmakers proposed amendments that both limited and expanded charter school options. Virtual charter schools, or schools that offered the majority of their coursework online, were removed from the bill.  But the committee also voted in favor of allowing charter schools to offer pre-kindergarten.

Burks Hill:  My question was, why was [preschool] coming under public charter schools when there is no public funding for pre-k.

Republican Angela Burks Hill questioned how pre-k programs could survive without state funds.  Republican Brice Wiggins, who proposed allowing pre-k charters said funds for such programs would have to come from private, federal or foundation entities, not the state.  

While the session further defined charter rules, not all questions brought before the committee were put to rest.  Dr. Tom Burnham, Mississippi State Superintendent, says he's concerned the bill isn't demanding high quality charter school teachers.

Burnham: The single most significant difference in a child’s academic gain is a highly competent teacher.  And having individuals with no requirement other than a bachelor’s degree does cause a significant level of concern.

The charter school debate is expected to be brought before the entire Senate later this week, and concerns about charter school teacher quality and the authorizing council - the group in charge of approving proposals for individual charter schools - are likely to be explored then.

From the Southern Education Desk, for MPB News, I'm Annie Gilbertson.

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