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By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Djournal

JACKSON – The state Board of Education believes it should be the only authorizer of charter schools in low-performing (D and F) school districts.

In districts deemed to be successful or better (A, B and C systems) under state accreditation guidelines, the local school boards should have veto authority over the location of a charter school within their borders.

The nine-member state Board of Education unanimously approved nine principles on charter schools on Thursday in advance of the 2013 session, which starts Jan. 8. Whether to strengthen Mississippi’s charter school law is expected to be a contentious issue during the upcoming session.

“These principles will ensure that every child receives the best educational opportunities and that every parent knows charter schools are held to high accountability standards,” the position paper read.

Charter schools vary in how they are operated, but in general they are public schools that are exempt from much of the governance and many of the guidelines that traditional public schools must follow. Currently, in certain instances, Mississippi’s low-performing schools can be converted to a charter school – or a recovery school as it is identified in state law.

The Republican majority in the Legislature and Republican Gov. Phil Bryant want to greatly expand the state’s charter school laws. Last year the effort passed the Senate, but died in the House.

One of the sticking points is that Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and much of the Senate leadership want to allow charter schools (without local school board approval) in C, D and F districts. The state Board’s position adopted Thursday is essentially the same position it had last year – to allow the schools only in low-performing or D and F districts without local approval.

House Education Chair John Moore, R-Brandon, has said the bill the House leadership introduces probably will be in agreement with the state Board on that issue.

Another sticking point is who authorizes the charter schools. The Republican leadership wants to create a new board to deal with the issue. The state Board of Education said it should be “the sole authorizer,” but with an appeals process.

The principles also include:

• Allowing students from multiple districts to attend the same charter school.

• Ensuring charter schools are reflective of the demographics in the area they serve.

• Allowing tax dollars to follow the student to the charter school.

• Complying with accountability standards of high-performing traditional public schools.

• Complying with the same transportation guidelines as traditional public schools.

• Compiling annual reports that would include “details on operations, such as finances, staffing and student achievement.”

• Allowing revocation of a charter school if not meeting standards.

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