Mississippi Education Options Explained
Fall is right around the corner, which means it is time for children to head back to school! This is an exciting time filled with the promise and opportunity of a new year.
Each year, parents choose where their child will attend school. Some Mississippians have several education options available to choose from. For others, the choices are limited.
While we are fighting to increase opportunities for parents and children, below is a list of the options currently available in Mississippi.
Traditional Public School
Traditional public schools are government-run, taxpayer-funded, tuition-free schools overseen by a school district superintendent who is hired by the district school board, which, in most cases, is elected by voters who live in the district. Most Mississippi students attend traditional public schools and are assigned to a particular school based on where they live.
Traditional Public School in Different District
To attend a school in a different district, students must submit transfer requests to both their assigned district school board and the school board for the district they wish to attend. Both districts must approve the request. Students transferring to a different school district may be charged tuition by the receiving district. For information on submitting a transfer request, visit your school district website or contact your school district office.
Charter schools are public schools which parents may choose that are tax-funded and tuition-free. Overseen by independent boards that are accountable to the state Charter School Authorizer Board, charter schools have freedom from some traditional public-school regulations and often have a special curriculum or focus.
In Mississippi, charter schools are open to all students residing in the school district where the school is located. Students who live in C, D, or F-rated school districts may cross district lines to attend a charter school in another district. State law restricts where charter schools may open. Subject to approval by the Charter School Authorizer Board, charter schools are allowed to open without school district approval in D and F-rated school districts. They may open in A, B, and C-rated school districts with local school board approval.
For more information on charter schools, visit the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board (MCSAB) website.
Private schools are independent schools that are run by private organizations or individuals. These schools often have admissions criteria and charge tuition. Private schools may also be virtual schools or provide distance learning through correspondence.
Some private schools offer scholarships or tuition assistance. For parents of students with special needs, one of the state’s scholarship programs may help with tuition and other educational expenses. For more information and resources, and for a partial list of private schools, visit the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools.
In Mississippi, parents may choose to teach their children at home. Homeschool may include online programs, homeschool groups, or classes at a traditional school or college. These students are not subject to state curriculum or testing requirements. State law requires families to submit a certificate of enrollment to their local school attendance officer annually.
Magnet schools are tax-funded, tuition-free public schools that are created by local districts and have a particular theme or academic focus, such as performing arts, STEM, or early college. Typically, students within the district where the school is located may apply, audition, or opt to attend based on available seats or admissions criteria. You can find out if this option is available by calling your school district or visiting the district’s website.
Find more information and resources at Magnet Schools of America.
Virtual schools enable students to pursue a part-time or full-time K-12 education program online. In particular, students who are homebound, travel often, or need learning flexibility may benefit from virtual options.
Mississippi currently has no full-time virtual public schools. A limited number of individual online courses through the Mississippi Online Course Approval program may be accessible to students through their local school district.
Numerous private virtual programs are accessible to students in Mississippi.
Mississippi has three scholarship programs that allow state tax dollars to follow students with special needs to a private school or to a different public school.
The Education Scholarship Account is a flexible spending account that gives families access to tax dollars to pay for private tuition, therapy, tutoring, and other educational expenses. Students with an active Individualized Education Program (IEP) in the past three years are eligible to apply. Find out more here.
The Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship is for students with a dyslexia diagnosis to attend a public school in another district or to attend one of five specially-designated private schools with a dyslexia program. Find out more here.
The Speech-Language Therapy Scholarship is for students in K-6 with an eligibility ruling of speech-language impairment to attend one of two schools with a speech-language program. Find out more here.