HB 1683: Expand opportunity for establishment of charter schools


House Bill 1683, sponsored by Rep. Jansen Owen, would make several changes to Mississippi’s charter school law designed to expand the establishment of charters in the state.  

Charter schools are public schools. Like other public schools, they don’t charge tuition.  

They must accept all students who apply, limited only by grades served, space available, and the whether the district where the school is located is graded D or F when the school is approved to open. That approval comes from the MS Charter School Authorizer Board. 

Under HB 1683:

  • Mississippi’s colleges and universities would be allowed to authorize charter schools, providing another authorizer in the state beyond the Charter School Authorizer Board. 
  • Charter school applicants would not need local school board approval to open in a district rated C, D, or F. Currently, a charter school may be approved to open without local approval only in a district rated D or F. 
  • Schools that are designed to serve students with autism, emotional disability or intellectual disability may be approved in any school district, regardless of the district’s rating. 

Mississippi’s charter school sector remains painfully small a decade after the law passed. In fact, only 10 charter schools are currently in operation in the state.  

Why has progress been slow? It’s not because there isn’t interest from operators, both in Mississippi and beyond the state’s borders. Each year, we see a dozen or so applicants express interest. 

And it isn’t because of a lack of interest among parents. From the limited pool of charters, we see waiting lists and impressive year-over-year retention rates. In Jackson, where we have the largest share of charter schools, 20-25% of public school students who attend a grade offered by a charter school are enrolled in charter schools. And that number is growing. 

At the end of the day, charter schools come with built-in accountability: parents. Each year, they choose to send – or not send – their children to charter schools based on whether their children are getting what they need.  

Charter schools can and should serve an important function in Mississippi’s education landscape. Operators need more support and parents need more options. 

Empower Mississippi supports this legislation. 

HB 1683 has been referred to the House Education Committee. You can read the bill here.