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Supporters turn out strongly for charter school hearings

booksJACKSON — So far, hearings on applications for Mississippi’s first charter schools are being dominated by supporters.

Speakers in Jackson said yesterday that they support RePublic Charter Schools’ plan to open Reimagine Prep, serving grades 5-8. That followed a Tuesday hearing in Columbus where speakers backed the Inspire Charter School STEM and Arts Scholars Academy, which the Columbus Coalition for Educational Options would open to serve grades K-6 and 9.

The state’s Charter School Authorizer Board is holding the hearings to gauge public support for the three applications it’s considering. The board plans to vote on applications June 2, finalizing contracts with approved schools later that month.

Yesterday, public comments were dominated by board members and others involved in the proposal to open a school in south Jackson at a facility owned by New Horizon Church International.

Bishop Ronnie Crudup, the pastor of one of Jackson’s largest churches, said he supports the school to give parents options and to prove that all students can excel.

“If schools aren’t working well, they should have alternatives to turn to,” Crudup said. “I hope it will settle once and for all the ability of our children to be high-excelling students.”

Ravi Gupta, the managing partner of RePublic, said he believes Jackson is ready.

“I think it documents what we’ve been feeling since about a year ago when we came to town, which is people are really excited about the opportunity and are open to looking at options,” Gupta said.

Gupta said supporters have pledged more than $400,000 to help the school operate for a year, until it begins receiving state funds.

Mike Sayer of Southern Echo, a community organizing group that has been cool toward charter schools, said he passed up a chance to comment Wednesday because his group isn’t going to “nitpick” particular applications.

The Commercial Dispatch reported that only two people spoke in the Columbus hearing, both supporters.

The board will hold a third hearing today in Natchez on plans by the Phoenix Project Community Development Foundation to open Phoenix Early College Charter School, serving grades 9-12.



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