The House Education Committee passed its version of the Mississippi Public Charter Schools Act of 2012 (HB 888) yesterday and is expected to vote on it next week.
The Senate passed charter schools legislation in the form of SB 2401 last week. See a summary of some key similarities and differences below.
The House bill contains many provisions similar to the Senate bill, such as:
• Enrollment for charter schools is open, meaning the schools can’t pick and choose students. A mandatory lottery selection process will be used by any charter school when admission demand exceeds the number of enrollment slots available.
• Charters will be required to enroll a number at-risk students that shall reflects the at-risk composition of students in the school districts in which they are located in accordance with Census data. (At-risk students are those participating in the federal free lunch program who qualify for at-risk student funding under the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.)
- The public funds allotted to each student go with the student to the charter school of his/her choosing.
Conversion charter schools
• A conversion charter school is a school that was a traditional public school before becoming a charter. Conversion school RFPs will require additional information including one of the following:
>> Petition signed by majority of teachers in the existing public school
>> Petition signed by majority of parents in the existing public school
>> Majority vote of the local school board
>> Authorization of state Board of Education in the case of schools under state conservatorship
Initial charter terms
• Initial charter terms will be 5 years, and they may be renewed for successive 5-year terms of duration.
Differences in House bill:
Virtual charter schools
• HB 888 permits “virtual” public charter schools, or schools that offer educational services primarily through online programs. (The virtual schools language was stripped from the Senate bill before it made it out of committee.)
• Instead of the Authorizer Board in the Senate bill, the House bill calls for creating a similar Mississippi Public Charter School Board that would consist of five members – three appointed by the Governor and two appointed by the Lt. Governor – as opposed to a seven-member board with some members appointed by the state Board of Education and Commissioner of Higher Education.
• The bill also creates an Office of Charter Schools within the state Department of Education, which will be charged with implementing the Board’s decisions related to conversion charter schools.
• The House bill says public charter school students would be eligible to participate in state-sponsored or district-sponsored sports programs not offered at their schools.