Nine potential charter schools appealed to the Mississippi Charter Authorization Board this year in hopes of opening a school in the state.
There are now three of those nine still in the running to open their charters within the next year, following the Charter School Authorizer Board meeting held Monday.
“They have one more hurdle to go in September to determine which charter schools will be able to open next year,” said Grant Callen, with Empower Mississippi.
Legislation passed in 2016 now allows for students in “C,” “D,” or “F,” ranked schools to hop school district lines to attend a charter school in order to receive a better education. The current problem, according to Callen, is accessibility.
Right now, the state has three charter schools, but all of them are in Jackson. The new applicants are Clarksdale Collegiate (k-3), which aims to open in Clarksdale; Shades of Elegance Development(k-6) hopes to open one in Drew, in Sunflower County; and SR1, which stands for Science Research 1 (kindergarten), which would open in Canton.
If these schools receive final approval in September, they’ll open for the 2018-2019 school year.
The schools will have initial approval to operate for the grades they specified, but will eventually grow each year to teach a new grade–following the students through their academic careers. While SR1 in Canton hopes to launch with kindergarten, they want to add a grade or so each year until they are serving k-12.
One charter school in Jackson will open doors for the 2017-2018 school year. Smilow Collegiate will open this fall, serving students in kindergarten and first grade, and eventually add a grade every year.
Callen explains that the process for starting a charter school in Mississippi is very intensive.
“It’s a rigorous process,” said Callen. “You have to have a plan for facilities, for start up costs… you have people working for sometimes a couple of years before they even open doors for students, and in that time they don’t receive public dollars.”
Callen said in the meantime, there has to be a financial plan with private dollars to maintain and grow the facility until it is time for the school to open. Even then, the evaluation process isn’t over.
According to the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board website, there is an annual audit that consists of site visits, submission of required documents and data, and evaluation of performance on the academic, financial, and organizational level.
“We want to support charter schools…but we don’t want public dollars going to charters that won’t be successful, ” said Callen. “So every year they have to be audited for the first five years. Then, they review and make a judgment to determine if the charter school continues.”
News Mississippi will continue to follow the three pending charter schools through the process.