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Charter School Authorizer Board...

Charter School Authorizer Board approves one new school to move forward, denies another

By: Sarah Ulmer - July 11, 2023
Reimagine Prep Charter School

Photo: Reimagine Prep Public Charter School

The new charter school approved by the Board is a high school extension of an already existing K-8 charter school in Clarksdale.

The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board met this week to discuss approval of two potential charter schools.

At the meeting, the Board found that Clarksdale Collegiate Prep, which seeks to increase an existing K-8 charter school through grades 9-12, did satisfy all of the necessary criteria for Stage 2 of the process. However, Level-Up Academy, which would have created a new K-5 charter school, did not meet the Stage 2 requirements.

Clarksdale Collegiate Prep will be advancing to Stage 3 for a full review by the application committee.

The report, which was conducted by Advanced Leadership Strategies (ALS), noted several critical concerns with Level-Up Academy. Holes within their financial plan, particularly basing the majority of funding on grants, was at the top of the list. The evaluation showed that enrollment projections would not produce a sufficient amount of revenue to maintain operations. The report also expressed that the Academy’s application did not show a deep understanding of the academic program required for a charter school.

Additionally, there was no CFO/business manager included in the financial plan until the school was to be in place for two years, which contradicts requirements within the financial workbook.

Some concerns were noted for Clarksdale Collegiate despite their approval. The Board mentioned the concerns for special populations and instructional programming and support.

Only qualified non-profits are eligible to apply for a charter school and can do so once a year. The application process is lengthy and focuses on areas such as school quality, organizational capacity, facility, financial viability, community need, and an educational plan.

The Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2013 was passed by the Legislature making charter schools accessible. While they are defined as public schools, the inter-working of the charter school is determined by an independent, non-profit governing board instead of a local school district. The charter schools do not charge a tuition and are open to all students regardless of academic, athletic, or special education status.

Charter schools actually receive less funding than a traditional public school at an average of 27 percent, nationally. In Mississippi, three percent of charter school funding goes toward administrator costs. The charters also do not receive funding for facilities.

The stated mission of the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board is to authorize high-quality charter schools that will expand opportunities for underserved students in Mississippi. The state currently has eight public charter schools located in Jackson, Clarksdale, and Greenwood. Two more will open in Canton and Natchez in the fall of 2023.

In this year’s annual report from MCSAB, it was reported that charter school students in middle grades outperformed those in a traditional public school in the subject of math. Those in elementary school performed similar to students in a regular public school in math and ELA.

The board will meet again for a special called meeting on July 25th and then on September 25 for a regular meeting.

Correction:We previously stated that applicants could apply twice a year, however language was pulled from a proposed expansion plan.*

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: