Charter school operators and their unhappy advocates of the new performance framework

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Despite unified opposition to new regulations governing liability, the Mississippi Charter Authorizer Board is expected to approve them at its next board meeting November 8.

The new regulation assess the liability of a charter operator and whether the board of directors will authorize their contract for a further period of four or five years. It measures accountability in three areas: Academic, Financial and Organizational.

Charter schools are public schools operated by an outside company that must obtain permission from the licensing board before opening a school. The school operator receives a five-year contract and the manager decides whether an operator gets a new contract.

The biggest problem with the regulations that charter school operators and advocates have criticized is linking the benchmark of academic performance with that of the local school district where the charter is located.

Because some charter schools accept students from more than one district, the framework does not specify which district of comparison would be for this vital part of the performance framework.

According to Jon Rybka, CEO of charter operator RePublic Schools, it would be an apple-to-orange comparison that is not part of the state law that created the charter schools and leaves operators with a “lack of clarity” regarding references.

Given the number of public comments on the by-law and the proposed revisions, council members asked only two questions of the five interveners during the October 27 hearing for the new by-law.

Mississippi First executive director Rachel Canter slammed the board executive and said her organization, along with others, had provided several comments and analysis that were largely ignored in the latest version of the regulation.

“There is no credible case that stakeholders have accepted any of the documents that are the subject of today’s hearing,” Canter said. “Continue to insist that stakeholders have been engaged or even that there is consensus or agreement in principle on the design or format of the framework when almost all of the major stakeholders in this space have made it clear and consistently that this is not the case is misleading at best. ”

Mississippi First offered reviews from two of the three areas, financial and organizational. He said in his comments that the framework’s new financial analysis could potentially allow underperforming schools to achieve a passing grade while penalizing schools with good financial performance. The reason is that the licensing board, instead of developing its own specific charter framework, adopted the Mississippi Department of Education accounting manual.

According to their comments, this has the effect not only of compromising the independence of the licensing board, but also gives the MDE the capacity to regulate the charters.

Elyse Marcellino, director of the New School Project at Empower Mississippi, told the board that the “robust” nature of the framework can have the effect of stifling the educational innovation that is the whole goal of charter schools. She also said the framework would make Mississippi, with the greatest need, an unattractive place for charter operators to open new schools.

Trey Vernaci, the director of operations at RePublic, told the board he recommended that the framework not be passed because substantive and renewal process issues would lead to limiting the number of charter schools. .

At the end of the comment period during the hearing, Charter School Authorizer Board Executive Director Lisa Karmacharya read a comment from Michigan. Basic policy research (the consultants who rewrote the new framework) on the new regulations which acted as a response to criticism from advocates and school operators. Basis said in his comments that the new framework will provide a “rigorous and transparent process for assessing the quality of charter schools in Mississippi.”

In December 2020, the board gave Basis a $ 30,000 contract to help rewrite the performance framework.

There are only seven charter schools in Mississippi, most in the Jackson area, and two more will open next year.

In 2013, the Mississippi Legislature passed a invoice who licensed charter schools in Mississippi. The compromises necessary to cross the finish line to the government of the day. Phil Bryant’s office was assured of reducing the number of schools statewide. The first of these compromises was to authorize only one charter authorization board, an independent body made up of volunteer members.

The second allowed charters only in failing school districts according to annual accountability notes from the Mississippi Department of Education. Any other charter that wants to open elsewhere requires the approval of the local school board in addition to that of the authorization board.


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