Republicans May Bring Shift in Charter Law to Mississippi

Under current law in Mississippi, only at schools with subpar ratings for three consecutive years — and only at the requests of parents — can charter organizations move in and take control, writes Jeff Amy at the Associated Press.

So far no school in the state has been chartered under those rules. But advocates want to change the law, and many can see it happening. As Amy writes:

"For many of the people most involved in the debate over charter schools, the question is not whether Mississippi will get a new charter school law, but what the law will look like."

This certainty is because Republicans, having gained control of both houses of the Legislature and holding the governor's office, are keen to loosen the state's current law.

"If public charter schools give a child yet another opportunity to succeed, we all will be better in Mississippi," Gov.-elect Phil Bryant said in a statement.

"We can't afford to wait."

But critics still hold by the fact that many studies – such as the 2009 research from Stanford University – show that charter school academic results nationwide are not better than regular public schools, and, in some cases, students learned less in the typical charter school than peers in traditional public schools.

Democrat senator David Jordan believes more funding for prekindergarten programs as a better way of attacking educational deficiencies.

"I don't see where they really do any better than public schools."

But Rachel Canter, executive director of Mississippi First, pointed towards the Stanford study to say that although there are some disappointing results nationwide, it showed that charter schools in many states outperformed traditional peers.

"It matters what happens at the state level," Canter said.

The most favorable proposal to reform the current law is part of the Mississippi Economic Council's "goal-setting exercise" called Blueprint, which would allow the state to charter any school that had been rated less than "successful" for two straight years.

However, as Mississippi has no current charter organizations, they are going to have to refer to out-of-state bodies to take over these schools. Some are concerned about this, but not education reform advocate Claiborne Barksdale.

"You know you're getting a charter school that's going to be academically solid and well-run.

"They would be out-of-state entities, but so what? Toyota is an out-of-state entity, but we're mighty glad to have them."

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