Major Elements of HB 1152, the Mississippi Public Charter Schools Act of 2012

A charter school is a nonprofit educational organization that is a public school. 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 and other categories.
  • 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 Public 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.
  • will issue an annual report which will include, among other things, a comparison of charter performance against comparable, traditional public schools.

Charter schools may open, or existing schools could convert to charter status, in all school districts. However, school boards in districts rated “Star”, “High-Performing”, and “Successful” may veto the approval of an application for a charter school that would be located in their district. After three years, only boards in districts rated “Star” and “High Performing” will have that power.

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 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 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 at-risk population of similar grades in the school district where the charter school is located.

At least 50 percent of charter school teachers must have gone through the official Mississippi teacher certification process. 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.

Private schools are prohibited from converting to charter schools. Existing public schools are eligible to convert to charter status.

Virtual charter schools are prohibited. Charter schools may utilize online courses, just as regular public schools may now do.