About Charter Schools

Charter schools are free, public, and open to all students in the eligible grade and geography. They get their name from the contract, or charter, that the school signs with the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board, the state agency that is allowed to create charter schools. The charter describes the rights and responsibilities of the school and binds the school to goals for its academic, financial, and organizational performance. Charter schools must meet these goals to continue to operate. The schools’ charters are renewed at least every five years. In exchange for that accountability, the schools receive flexibility to innovate in areas like curriculum or schedules.

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.

In 2019, there are 6 charter schools operating in Mississippi. An additional school has been approved to open in the 2020-2021 school year in Greenwood, Mississippi.

The Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2013 allows for the creation of both new and conversion charter schools. The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board was officially established in Fall 2013. MCSAB has approved 7 charter schools in Mississippi. There are 1,750-plus students in Jackson and Clarksdale, Mississippi, receiving their public education from a Mississippi charter school.

The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board evaluates the qualifications of charter school applicants, approves qualified applications, and oversees the approved schools to ensure they fulfill the provisions of the charter contract. The Board is made up of 7 appointees: 3 by the Governor, 3 by the Lieutenant Governor, and 1 by the State Superintendent. Appointments are made with the advice and consent of the Senate.

The Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2013, which was signed into law by Governor Bryant on April 17, 2013, established Mississippi’s first true charter school law. Mississippi’s law is based on the 2009 model law crafted by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The Mississippi Charter Schools Act moved Mississippi from 43 out of 43 on the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ 2013 rankings to 14 of 43, the largest leap for any law in the years the Alliance has published a ranking. Mississippi First’s original Keeping the Promise brief found that 75% of our recommended policy elements were completely adopted into law (70%, or 14 of 20, were in the original 2013 law and an additional 5%, or 1 of 20, was part of a 2015 amendment). Another 10% (2 of 20) of our recommendations were partially adopted in 2013 and remain today.

For a full timeline of the law’s history, see the one-pager we developed:

See our Charter School Publications page for related briefs, reports, and research.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about charter schools in Mississippi.

Charter schools are free public schools operated by nonprofits. They have the flexibility to take creative approaches to teaching and to give students the personal attention they need to learn.

Yes, charter schools

  • Administer the same state tests and are rated under the same accountability system as a traditional public schools.
  • Must accept all students who apply, unless there is not enough room, in which case they randomly draw names for admission.
  • Are subject to the same restrictions on teaching religious doctrine as traditional public schools.
  • May not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, disability or other category, including academic or athletic ability, that would not be permitted of other public schools.
  • Cannot charge tuition.
  • Are subject to an independent audit of their finances.
  • Are subject to civil rights, health, and safety laws.

In 2016, we created two documents to help communicate how charter schools are similar and different to traditional schools. However, Mississippi First no longer assists with applicant support, but the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board does! Learn more about opening a charter school by contacting 601.359.9199 or charterschools@mississippi.edu​​.