MISSISSIPPI AND Alabama can’t afford to exclude charter schools as an alternative for families whose neighborhood schools don’t measure up. Charter schools can offer flexibility not seen in traditional public schools — flexibility that can invite parental input and improve student performance.
For charter schools to be included in the mix, legislators in both states will need to change the law to allow them or make it easier for them to exist. As lawmakers craft proposals, they can take care to follow only the most proven models employed in other states.
Mississippi, for instance, already allows charter schools — at least technically — but not until a school fails to meet state standards for three years in a row and parents vote to convert the school. So far, no schools have been chartered under this overly strict model, which needs to be broadened.
Alabama law, meanwhile, doesn’t allow charter schools, period. A bill was introduced in 2010, but failed. This is likely to change now that Republicans wield more power and the main opposition, the Alabama Education Association, wields less.
A first step will be deciding who can charter schools. The experience in other states argues for limiting this authority.