Highlights of proposed charter school bill

February 16, 2012

Education

Senate Bill 2401, the “MISSISSIPPI PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS ACT 1 OF 2012″ introduced by Sen. Gray Tollison is now available to the public. Read the full bill here.

See Feb. 13, 2012 MBJ story, “Advocates want more flexible charter school bill.”

Interesting  and notable elements in the bill:

Independent Authorizer Board created

  • SB 2041 creates the Mississippi Public Charter School Authorizer Board (line 260 of bill) that would be independent of state Board of Education. (State Superintendent of Education Tom Burnham expressed his displeasure with this model at a recent public hearing on charter schools at the state Capitol.)

Authorizer Board structure

  • Board will consist of: 2 members appointed by Governor; 2 members appointed by Lt. Governor; 2 members appointed by state Superintendent of Education; 1 member appointed by Commissioner of Higher Education. (Board members must have strong experience/expertise in areas likes finance, public school leadership, curriculum, etc.) Terms will be staggered.

Authorizer Board funding

  • Board will oversee public charter schools and receive 3 percent of annual per-pupil allocations from state and local funds to cover costs.(line 376)

Preference for schools serving at-risk students

  • Bill states preference will be given to the formation of charter schools that would serve at-risk students (line 268) but does not prohibit parents from starting charters in districts that have public schools with high performance levels. (However, (see line 255) a majority vote of the local school board would be required for approval of a charter in a district rated High Performing or Star School.)
  • At-risk students are defined as those participating in the federal free lunch program who qualify for at-risk student funding under the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.
  • 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 (line 179).

Enrollment

  • A mandatory lottery selection process will be used by any charter school when admission demand exceeds the number of enrollment slots available.
  • Enrollment preference shall be given to siblings of students already enrolled in a school.
  • Returning students are exempt from the lottery process.

RFPs

  • Information beings at line 409. Those wanting to create a new or “startup” charter as well as those seeking to create a “conversion school” (or convert an existing public school to a charter) will be able to submit applications to the Authorizer Board as early as Sept. 1, 2012.
  • Conversion school applications require additional information in the form one of the following (line 532):

>> 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 will be 5 years (line 637).

Accountability

  • Information begins at line 687.

Facilities

  • Charter schools will be able to purchase or lease closed public school buildings (line 1188) or contract with a school district, state college or community college or other public or nonprofit entities (such as churches) for facility use (line 1195).
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