Study: Mississippians unfamiliar with charter schools

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Mississippi Today

Midtown Public Charter School is one of three public charter schools operating in Mississippi. 

A study on Mississippians’ perceptions of charter schools shows that the majority of respondents were unfamiliar with charter schools, and that number was even higher for respondents with less than a high school diploma.

Rachel Canter of Mississippi First presented the study to the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board at its April board meeting on Monday.

“One of the striking things of this question is that almost 58 percent of people, and this is a representative sample, so 58 percent of a representative sample said they had basically no familiarity with charter schools,” Canter said.

“I think that it’s very important to appreciate that because as much as we live and breathe and your work is all dedicated to charter schools, there is still a significant portion of the Mississippi population that knows virtually nothing about charter schools,” she said.

Mississippi First is a nonprofit that worked to establish the state’s charter school legislation and continues to advocate for improving educational opportunities in the state.

Canter also said the fact that knowledge of charter schools was even lower for those without high school diplomas “tells us that the very population of parents that might be attracted to charter schools, that might most need charter schools, know the least about them.”

She noted that a significant number of people do not know charter schools are public schools, have no application requirement and do not charge tuition.

Other highlights from the study include:

• 29 percent of respondents completely support charter schools

• 26.3 percent somewhat support

• 18 percent neither support nor oppose

• 14.4 percent somewhat oppose

• 12.4 percent completely oppose

When asked how they think a charter school opening in their community would affect education, they responded:

• 22.7 very positive

• 30.9 percent somewhat positive

• 17.2 percent neither positive nor negative

• 12.8 percent somewhat negative

• 7.7 percent very negative

The study, which also examined the public’s knowledge and perceptions of public school funding and early childhood education, was done in conjunction with the Survey Research Laboratory at Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center.