Mississippi charter schools get $15M boost from Feds

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Kayleigh Skinner/Mississippi Today

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves speaks at a school choice rally in the Capitol rotunda on Jan. 24, 2017.

Mississippi is one of nine states to receive millions of federal funds to help develop future high-quality charter schools in the state.

On Thursday, the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board received a 5-year, $15 million grant from The U.S. Department of Education to help get future charter schools off the ground and provide technical assistance to existing ones.

“We are thrilled to be one of nine state entities to receive this award as well as have the opportunity to expand access to excellent public charter schools for families and students across Mississippi,” Authorizer Board Executive Director Marian Schutte said in a statement.

The funding comes from a federal program called Expanding Opportunities Through Quality Charter Schools Program Grants to State Entities. Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas and Wisconsin also received funding.

There are currently three charter schools in Mississippi, each located in Jackson; the authorizer board recently approved a fourth to open in Clarksdale next fall.

“This funding has the potential to be transformational to opening high-quality public charter schools in Mississippi. We are thrilled to support the Authorizer Board as they continue to grow the public charter school network in Mississippi and strengthen public education for all students,” Rachel Canter, executive director of Mississippi First, said in a release. Mississippi First is a nonprofit advocate for school reform, including development of charter schools.

The authorizer board will partner with Mississippi First, the National Charter School Authorizer Board, and the Mississippi Education Accelerator to reach its goals for the program.

According to information about the program on the U.S. Department of Education website, the funds are intended to help increase the number of high-quality charter schools in the state and specifically expand educational opportunities for underserved students. Mississippi’s funding will target public school students who attend D- or F-rated schools. The plan states that one of the authorizer board’s goals for the funding is to increase the number of new, high quality charter schools “by at least 375% over the next five years to create 15,000 new high-quality charter school seats.”

Ninety percent of the money will go towards helping charter schools in their infancy, so that the schools can hire staff and teachers, secure facilities, and other start-up costs. Charter schools rated an A or B will also receive support.

The board can also use the money on charter school operator recruitment, technical assistance for applicants and approved charter schools, as well as the board itself to “enhance authorizer quality.”