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.

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.

Kayleigh Skinner joined the Mississippi Today team in January 2017 as an education and legislative reporter and advanced to a senior staff member in her four years with the company. Before joining Mississippi Today, Kayleigh worked at The Hechinger Report, Chalkbeat Tennessee, and The Commercial Appeal. She has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, and BBC Newsday Radio to discuss her reporting.