The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board voted Monday to delay possible approval of its new performance framework until its December 13 meeting.
The reason, according to Charter School Authorized Board executive director Lisa Karmacharya, was that the board hadn’t received a transcript from the October 27 hearing concerning the new regulations, which were universally opposed by charter operators and advocates such as Mississippi First and Empower Mississippi.
She said that board members needed to be able review the hearing transcript and asked the board to remove the potential vote on the new regulations from the Monday’s meeting agenda.
The new regulations would assess the accountability of a charter operator and whether the board will authorize their contract for a new four- or five-year period. The new standards measure accountability in three areas: Academic, financial and organizational.
During the October 27 hearing, charter school advocates and school operators said the new regulations could not only constrain growth of the state’s charter school sector, but also hurt existing schools when their contracts come up for renewal.
In December 2020, the board gave Michigan-based Basis Policy Research a $30,000 contract to help rewrite the performance framework.
Rachel Canter, the executive director of Mississippi First, told the board it needs to hire a mediator to resolve the issues related to the new regulations.
“It seems like the board and the charter school communities have reached somewhat of an impasse on how the process has gone,” Canter said during the meeting. “In order to break this impasse, it’s going to be necessary for the board’s facilitation to bring everybody into a room together, to have a conversation together.
“I would recommend the board hire a neutral third-party facilitator for that conversation, not someone from the board or from the schools, like NACSA (the National Association of Charter School Authorizers) that has a national reputation and is trusted by all the parties who bring people together to have a real in-depth conversation about all of these issues and find a way forward that will make everyone feel like you’ve reached a consensus.”
In other business, the board approved:
- A contract to the NACSA to conduct the annual stakeholder survey to assess awareness, general sentiment, satisfaction levels and concerns about charter schools. The survey would cost between $44,000 and $48,000. NACSA was the only bidder in the request for proposals.
- The request by the board of Revive Prep in Jackson to change from kindergarten and fifth grade to kindergarten and first grade for its first year of operation (the 2022-2023 school year).
In 2013, the Mississippi Legislature passed a bill that authorized charter schools in Mississippi. There are only seven charter schools in Mississippi, most in the Jackson area, and two more will open next year.
Charters can be approved exclusively by the authorizer board in only failing school districts according to the Mississippi Department of Education’s annual accountability grades. Any other charter that wants to open elsewhere requires the approval of the local school board in addition to that of the authorizer board.