Thirty-Five Mississippi Schools Eligible for Parent Trigger
Thirty-five Mississippi schools have performed so poorly for three years in a row that parents can now convert them into charter schools under the stateâ€™s 2010 Parent Trigger law.
This is the first year any Mississippi schools are eligible. About 50 schools worked to improve and thus avoided the eligible list.
â€œMississippi is handing a lot of power over to parents with this law,â€ said Laura Jones, school improvement director for the Mississippi Department of Education.
Charter schools are only available to families through Mississippiâ€™s Parent Trigger law, and then only 12 existing schools may be converted into the independently run public schools. Otherwise, the state does not allow them.Â So far, parents have not chosen to pull the trigger.
Parents have very little accurate information about charters, and none on successfully evaluating one, said Anne Foster, executive director of Parents for Public Schools.
Gov. Phil Bryant (R) and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves are expected to press for charter school legislation in 2013.
â€œCharters can provide children trapped in failing schools with a good public school option, provided that the legislation governing charters is written tightly enough,â€ said Nancy Loome, executive director of the Mississippi Parentsâ€™ Campaign.
Chronically failing Mississippi schools have also tried federal reforms targeted to statesâ€™ worst 5 percent of schools such as School Improvement Grants, which send such schools more money and require them to switch up staff.
â€œThe 62,000 parents involved with The Parentsâ€™ Campaign overwhelmingly favor improvement in traditional schools over a charter option,â€ Loome said. â€œWe get enormous pushback from parents because of our position that favors authorizing charter schools.â€
No Parent Consensus
In 2010, Mississippi legislators passed a law saying any school labeled as failing, low-performing, or at-risk of failing for three consecutive years is eligible for a majority of parents to petition the stateâ€™s department of education that the school be converted into a charter.
Test results starting in 2009-2010 determined schoolsâ€™ labels in 2010-2011 and forward.
â€œOur communities are trying to figure out how to be more actively engaged in improving their schools, but none of them show an interest in charters,â€ Jones said. â€œThey want to know what we can do to make our present system better.â€
No school boards or parents wishing to participate in charter conversion have contacted PPS, Foster said. Four schools in the Clarksdale Municipal School District are eligible for charter conversion, but Superintendent Dennis Dupree said heâ€™s aware of no parents who have expressed interest in exercising that option.
Hinds County Agricultural High School, also eligible for conversion, and nearby Clarksdale County are open-enrollment, meaning parents send children to their school of choice within the district until 8th grade. AHS is also open-enrollment.
Dupree said that Clarksdaleâ€™s demographics, about a 98 percent poverty rate, has led district leaders to focus on early education, such as pre-kindergarten pilot programs.
â€œYou have to remember that this is something that has to be parent-driven and right now thereâ€™s just no consensus among the parents or the community to move in that direction,â€ said State Conservator Mac Curlee, a consultant to trigger-eligible Okolona High School.
Charter advocates pushed for a broader charter law in 2012, but couldnâ€™t win approval in the House, Jones said, largely because the education establishment did not support the bill.
The Parentsâ€™ Campaign supports accountability-tight charter legislation that allows charters only in chronically low-performing school zones, Loomes said. Automatically including all children in a failing district-wide lottery, with parents able to opt out, is key, she said.
â€œWe believe that parents should be at the table when decisions are made that impact their children,â€ Foster said.
Mississippi Schools Eligible for the Parent Trigger
Amanda Elzy High
Booker T. Washington Elementary
Carver Middle School
Coahoma County Jr/Sr High School
Crystal Springs Middle School
D.M. Smith Middle School
Friars Point Elementary
Greenville Weston High
Higgins Middle School
Hinds Agricultural High
Leflore County High
Leland School Park
Liddell Middle School
Magnolia Junior High
McCoy Elementary School
Moss Point High
Mt. Olive Academy
East Oktibbeha County High
West Oktibbeha County High
Pilate Middle School
Port Gibson High
Shivers Middle School
Whitten Middle School
Yazoo City High