The Senate Education Committee passed the Mississippi Public Charter Schools Act of 2012 this morning. The legislation will now be considered by the Senate.
Charter schools are open-enrollment public schools that are freed from some of the rules, regulations and statutes that apply to other public schools in exchange for accountability for producing certain results.
Senate Bill 2401, introduce by Sen. Gray Tollison, would allow citizens in any school district to submit charter proposals to an Authorizer Board that would determine approval and hold schools accountable. Charter enrollment would only be done by a lottery system, and the schools would be required to enroll a percentage at-risk students that reflects the population of the school districts. (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.)
Charter schools would be funded on a per-pupil basis like other state public schools.
The Committee voted to remove a section of the bill which would allow virtual, or online, public charter schools. Committee members noted that the state passed a bill in 2006 allowing for online education. The state has a contract with Connections Academy for $600,000 annually which provides free online education to public schools students.
Additionally, the Committee added a provision for pre-K education. The bill only contained language applicable to K-12 education.