Mississippi Governor Signs Charter School Law

News Details

Posted: April 18, 2013
Focus Areas: State Policy
States: Mississippi

Mississippi has a new charter school law that establishes a single statewide Charter School Authorizer Board to approve up to 15 charter schools annually.

The state’s governor announced April 17, 2013, the signing of the measure as part of a package of education actions.

In school districts with A, B or C performance designations, charter schools can be approved only with with the support of the local school district board according to the charter law. The law permits the conversion of district schools into charter schools with a majority vote of teachers or parents or the school board, but bars theconversion of private schools into charter schools. Currently, the state has no charter schools.

The law states that the charter authorizer board, with seven members to be appointed by September 1, 2013, will operate out of offices at the State Institutions of Higher Learning and be funded by 3 percent of charter schools’ per pupil funding.

The law provides that charter schools have right of first refusal to buy or lease “at or below fair market value” a closed public school as well as unused parts of a public school if the district decides to sell or lease the space.

The authorizer -- charged with establishing a performance framework, and approval, review and closure procedures for charter schools -- is expected to issue a request for charter school proposals by December 1, 2013. The law sets a preference for charter schools focused on the underserved and calls for charter school enrollment demographics to reflect the underserved demographics of the district.

Charter school applicants must show proof of their U.S. citizenship, and school plans must supply evidence of need, community support, plans for students with disabilities, and disclose private funding, including foreign aid.

A charter can be held only by a nonprofit organization, and comprehensive school management services can be provided only by  nonprofit entities. The law allows for a single charter school governing board to oversee multiple schools, but each of the schools must remain distinct and keep separate performance data.

The law provides for timetables to review and act on charter school applications and sets contract renewal terms of five years. In case of closure, which is required if a charter school receives an F for the final year of its contract term, the law requires that any school public funds or assets acquired with public funds revert to the district.

Charter schools are designated as local education agencies (LEAs), a status that carries the responsibility to meet federal laws governing the provision of special education services and also enables the school to apply for grants. The law permits charter schools and districts to forge mutually beneficial agreement for the provision of special education.

The law allows charter schools to contract with providers of online courses.

Charter schools are free of many state regulations, but must comply with open meetings law. The law considers the governing board of a charter school to be a “public body.” And, for example, charter schools are not exempt from state rules regarding minimum age for kindergarten and requirements for automatic expulsion of students bearing weapons or drugs at school or certain habitually disruptive students.

The law provides a timetable for distribution by districts to charter schools of state and local per pupil funding and grants to charter schools proportional amounts of federal and state categorical funding.

Regarding standards for employment of charter school staff, the law states that not more than 25 percent of the initial teaching staff can be exempt from state licensure requirements, and, within three years, all must have a licensure approved by state’s Commission on Teacher and Administrator Education, Certification and Licensure and Development. Administrators are exempt from the licensure requirements. But both teachers and administrators must at least have a bachelor’s degree.

The law bars charter schools from using nonimmigrant foreign worker visa programs to staff positions unless the authorizer grants permission.

Charter schools employees, according to the law, are not subject to the state salary requirements nor are they members of the Public Employees' Retirement System.

The law makes charter schools eligible for state-sponsored or district-sponsored athletic and academic interscholastic competitions.

Funds from any source that remain in the charter school's accounts at the end of a budget year must remain in the charter school's accounts for use by the charter school in subsequent years.

The law takes effect July 1, 2013 and is set to face reauthorization in 2020.