Mississippi's current charter school law expires this July. Rather than reauthorization, education reform advocates propose a revolution in the alternative public school option. Governor Haley Barbour mentioned support of the concept in his State of the State Address Tuesday night. House Education Chairman Cecil Brown supports a version of the concept. The Mississippi Center for Public Policy (MCPP) ranks the initiative a top priority for the year.

The MCPP produced a DVD on charter schools distributed by mail to thousands of Mississippi parents. Entitled "A Stone's Throw," it shows parents in the Delta do not have the opportunities and choices that parents possess just a stone's throw away in Arkansas and Tennessee. You can view the video at their charter school web site ParentPower.net.

Charter schools are public schools, independent from the local school board, free to make independent decisions, more flexible than traditional public schools. Mississippi has some great public schools. I attended Northwest Rankin and felt well prepared for college and career. But, some public schools need fixing and some parents can afford no other option. Charter schools allow involved parents and community leaders to make a choice to secure a better public education for their children, today.

"A Stone's Throw" shows the successes in communities neighboring the Mississippi Delta with charter schools.

The Delta College Preparatory School (DCPS) in Helena, Arkansas is one of 66 KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) public schools across the country in states like Louisiana, Tennessee and Georgia. DCPS serves 300 students (fifth through tenth grade). The schools cites their scores from the Stanford Norm tests to show students in three years moved from the 22nd to the 76th percentile in language, and 20th to 82nd percentile in math. Teachers and students subscribe to the school's motto in all their lessons, "There are no shortcuts."

Curtis Weathers traveled from the football field at Ole Miss, to seven years with the Cleveland Browns. Now he tackles public education in Memphis as the executive director of the Memphis Academy for Health Sciences, a public school chartered by 100 Black Men of Memphis.

"There are two things that make a great school: one is order, the other is great teachers," says Weathers in the video. "The most beautiful thing about a charter school is our autonomy. We can do it the way we want to do it. Our whole idea is to make school really different. It's a serious endeavor, but that doesn't mean you can't have fun doing it. So when you think that way, you do things a little different from time to time."

Weathers speaks of the greatest advantage charter public schools have over traditional public schools: freedom. No one assigns a student or a teacher to a charter school; they choose the charter school. Charter schools do not have more money or more teachers or higher paid teachers or newer facilities. They have flexibility and choice: freedom with accountability.

Weathers says if students don't succeed, then no one cares about anything else. Forest Thigpen, president of MCPP, echoes those sentiments in a new radio brief on charter schools, "Charter public schools are given freedom from some rules and regulations that traditional public schools have to follow, and in return for that freedom, they are held to a higher level of accountability....When a traditional school fails, it gets more money from the state. When a charter school fails, it closes. Now, that is accountability."

Freedom with accountability succeeds: capitalism in the market place; expression in the arts; discourse in the press and politics. Rigid regulation burdens the soul and can break the spirit. Teachers do not go into education to comply with federal and state regulations and complete paperwork.

"Our children know that a lot of our schools have a lot of problems and they're very, very concerned they're going to be stuck in a low performing school and that is going to affect their life from now on," New Horizon Church Bishop Ronnie Crudup, explains on the video. He discusses a parent who called him crying because she had no other option for her child.

Improving traditional public education is important. But every year the system fails, it fails a class of students who graduate or drop out. Parents should not have to sacrifice their children's personal education to fix the system.

Prima Atwell, a teacher for Memphis Academy says on the video, "If you are serious about your child's education, then you really should really look at every alternative at maximizing your child's education. So if charter school is an alternative, then why not utilize it?"

Parents utilize it a stone's throw away from the Mississippi Delta, and the legislature can empower Mississippi to follow Arkansas and Tennessee in public school innovation.

Brian Perry of Jackson, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.