The Mississippi State Legislature adopted a new charter school law during the 2013 regular session. This law allows for the creation of both new and conversion charter schools in the Magnolia State. The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board (MCSAB) was officially established in Fall 2013. The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board has approved 5 charter schools in Mississippi. Midtown Public Charter School and Reimagine Prep opened their doors fall of 2015 in Jackson, MS. Smilow Prep (Jackson, MS) opened in fall of 2016. Clarksdale Collegiate (Clarksdale, MS) and Smilow Collegiate (Jackson, MS) will open in the fall of 2018.

About Mississippi Public Charter School Act of 2013

The Mississippi Public Charter Schools Act of 2013 defines public charter schools as public schools that, among other characteristics,

  • Have autonomy over decisions including finance, personnel, scheduling, curriculum, and instruction;
  • Are governed by an independent governing board;
  • Are nonprofit organizations; and
  • Do not charge tuition.

Additional provisions of the law include requiring charter school applicants to receive permission via a majority vote from the local school board in order to establish a public charter school in districts with an “A,” “B,” or “C” rating. The law prohibits private schools from becoming public charter schools. It requires public charter schools’ enrollment of “underserved students” to be at least 80% of the underserved enrollment in the school district in which the charter schools are located.

The law defines “underserved student” as a student who qualifies for free lunch under the National School Lunch Program or a student receiving special education services.

The law also requires public charter schools to agree to performance guidelines within their contracts including, but not limited to,

  • Student academic proficiency and growth;
  • Attendance;
  • Postsecondary readiness for high schools; and
  • Financial performance and sustainability.

Lastly, the Mississippi Charter School law states that public charter schools’ contracts will be revoked if the charter schools are rated “F” for 3 consecutive years, unless the charter schools demonstrate “exceptional circumstances” as determined by the Authorizer Board. It exempts at most 25 percent of teachers in a public charter school from being state certified when the initial charter application is approved; exempted teachers are required to have completed an alternative teacher certification within 3 years of the school’s founding. Lastly, the law requires the State Department of Education to pay the public charter schools an amount for each student equal to the share the department would pay the school district in which the school is located.

Legislative History

The first state to pass a charter school law was Minnesota in 1991. In 1997, the governor of Mississippi signed HB 1672 into law. It allowed existing public schools to qualify for charter status on a pilot program basis. Only one school in the state, an elementary school in Merigold, was converted to a charter school under this law. However, this school was never a charter school in the accepted meaning of the term and quickly reverted into a normal magnet school.

By 2009, 41 states, including the District of Columbia, had charter school laws. The 1997 Mississippi charter school law expired in 2009. In 2010, the Conversion Charter Schools & New Schools Act was passed. It stated that only failing public schools could be converted into charter schools. Schools became eligible for the law’s provisions in the 2012-2013 school year since the law’s three-year timeline began with data from the 2009-2010 school year. No charter schools were created in Mississippi with the passing of this legislation and the conversion charter law was repealed in 2013.

In 2012, three new charter school bills were presented to the legislature: Senate Bill 2401 (Sen. Tollison), House Bill 888 (Rep. Moore), and House Bill 1152 (Rep. Moore). Each charter school bill from the 2012 session died in committee or failed to be considered by the deadline.

Again, in 2013, charter school legislation was discussed during the legislative session. Senator Tollison authored Senate Bill 2189, but it died on the House floor. Representative Moore authored House Bill 369, which became the Conference Report passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Bryant.

To view more charter school reports published by Mississippi First visit our Charter School Publications page.