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Frequently Asked Questions: Charter Schools

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When did the most recent charter law go into effect?

The most recent charter law went into effect as of Aug. 28, 2012.

In the past, charter schools were only permitted within the boundaries of the St. Louis City School District a nd Kansas City School District. Where are schools permitted now?

Except as further provided in subsection 4 of this section, charter schools may be operated
only:

1. In a metropolitan school district;
2. In an urban school district containing most or all of a city with a population greater than three hundred fifty thousand inhabitants;
3. In a school district that has been declared unaccredited;
4. In a school district that has been classified as provisionally accredited by the state board of education and has received scores on its annual performance report consistent with a classification of provisionally accredited or unaccredited for three consecutive school
years beginning with the 2012-13 accreditation year under the following conditions:

a.The eligibility for charter schools of any school district whose provisional accreditation is based in whole or in part on financial stress as defined in sections 161.520 to 161.529, or on financial hardship as defined by rule of the state board of education, shall be decided by a vote of the state board of education during the third consecutive school year after the designation of provisional accreditation; and
b.The sponsor is limited to the local school board or a sponsor who has met the standards of accountability and performance as determined by the department based on sections 160.400 to 160.425 and section 167.349 and properly promulgated rules of the department; or

5. In a school district that has been accredited without provisions, sponsored only by the local school board; provided that no board with a current year enrollment of one thousand five hundred fifty students or greater shall permit more than thirty-five percent of its student enrollment to enroll in charter schools.

Do charter schools still have to have a sponsor?

Yes. Refer toSection 160.400(3), RSMo 2012:
Except as further provided in subsection 4 of this section, the following entities are eligible to sponsor charter schools:

1. The school board of the district in any district which is sponsoring a charter school as of August 27, 2012, as permitted under subdivision (1) or (2) of subsection 2 of this section, the special administrative board of a metropolitan school district during any time in which powers granted to the district’s board of education are vested in a special administrative board, or if the state board of education appoints a special administrative board to retain the authority granted to the board of education of an urban school district containing most or all of a city with a population greater than three hundred fifty thousand inhabitants, the special administrative board of such school district;
2. Apublic four-year college or university with an approved teacher education program that meets regional or national standards of accreditation;
3. A community college, the service area of which encompasses some portion of the district;
4. Any private four-year college or university with an enrollment of at least one thousand students, with its primary campus in Missouri, and with an approved teacher preparation program;
5. Any two-year private vocational or technical school designated as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, which is a member of the North Central Association and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission,
with its primary campus in Missouri; or
6. The Missouri Charter Public School Commission created in section 160.425.

Clarification: In accredited districts, only the local school board can sponsor a charter school. After three consecutive years of classification as a provisionally accredited or unaccredited district, schools in that district can be sponsored by any of the entities listed in 160.400(3) after
approval from the State Board of Education. The three years start with the 2012-2013 accreditation year.

Does this mean that in provisionally accredited districts, only school boards will be able to sponsor cha rter schools until the fall of 2015?

Yes. A provisionally accredited school district must first be classified as provisionally accredited or unaccredited for three years starting with the 2012-2013 school year. Refer to Section 160.400(4), RSMo 2012.

What school districts are unaccredited in Missouri?

For a list of accreditation classifications please visit the MO School Improvement Page.

Are sponsors paid any funds for sponsoring charter schools?

Yes. Pursuant to Section 160.400(11): The expenses associated with sponsorship of charter schools shall be defrayed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education retaining one and five-tenths percent of the amount of state and local funding allocated to the charter school under section 160.415, not to exceed one hundred twenty-five thousand dollars, adjusted for inflation.
Refer to Sections 160.400 to 160.425 and 167.349, RSMo 2012.

What are the expectations for being a sponsor?

The expectations for being a charter sponsor can be found in Section 160.400(11): The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall remit the retained funds for each charter school to the school’s sponsor, provided the sponsor remains in good standing by fulfilling its sponsorship obligations under sections 160.400 to 160.425 and 167.349 with regard to each charter school it sponsors, including appropriate demonstrations of the following:
1. Expends no less than ninety percent of its charter school sponsorship funds in support of its charter school sponsorship program, or as a direct investment in the sponsored schools; 
2. Maintains a comprehensive application process that follows fair procedures and rigorous criteria and grants charters only to those developers who demonstrate strong capacity for establishing and operating a quality charter school;
3. Negotiates contracts with charter schools that clearly articulate the rights and responsibilities of each party regarding school autonomy, expected outcomes, measures for evaluating success or failure, performance consequences, and other material terms;
4. Conducts contract oversight that evaluates performance, monitors compliance, informs intervention and renewal decisions, and ensures autonomy provided under applicable law; and 
5. Designs and implements a transparent and rigorous process that uses comprehensive data to make merit-based renewal decisions.
 
Also Section 160.400(12): Sponsors receiving funds under subsection 11 of this section shall be required to submit annual reports to the joint committee on education demonstrating they are in compliance with subsection 17 of this section. Refer to Sections 160.400 to 160.425 and 167.349, RSMo 2012

What is the application process to become a charter school sponsor?

The Department of Elementary establishes an application and approval process for all entities eligible to sponsor charters. Guidelines are available and applications for sponsorship must be submitted by Feb.1, 2014. The application will include, at a minimum:

1. Written notification of intent to serve as a charter school sponsor in accordance with applicable rule and regulations;
2. Evidence of the applicant sponsor's budget and personnel capacity;
3. An outline of the request for proposal that the applicant sponsor would, if approved as a charter sponsor, issue to solicit charter school applicants;
4. A performance framework that the sponsor would, if approved as a charter sponsor, use to guide the establishment of a charter contract and for ongoing oversight and a description of how it would evaluate said charter schools; and
5. The sponsor's renewal, revocation and nonrenewal processes. Refer to Section 160.403(1)(2), RSMo 2012.

What is the timeline for applying to be a sponsor?

The timeline for applying to be a chart sponsor is as follows:
• Each interested/eligible sponsor's application must be submitted by Feb.1.
• Each year, the Department will grant or deny sponsoring authority to a sponsor applicant by April 1.
 
Refer to Section 160.403(1)(2)(3), RSMo 2012.

Is a charter school considered a public or private school?

Charter schools are considered public schools.

Can anyone attend a charter school?

A charter school may establish a geographical area around the school whose residents will receive a preference for enrolling in the school, provided that such preferences do not result in the establishment of racially or socioeconomically isolated schools and provided such preferences conform to policies and guidelines established by the state board of education. If capacity is insufficient to enroll all pupils who submit a timely application, the charter school shall have an admissions process lottery that assures all applicants of an equal chance of gaining admission.

What restrictions are placed on charter board members?

No member of the governing board of a charter school shall hold any office or employment from the board or the charter school while se rving as a member, nor shall the member have any substantial interest, as defined in Section 105.450, in any entity employed by or contracting with the board. No board member shall be an employee of a company that provides substantial services to the charter school. All members of the governing board of the charter school shall be considered decision-making public servants as defined in Section 105.450 for the purposes of the financial disclosure requirements contained in Sections105.483, 105.485, 105.487, and 105.489.
 
The governing body of a charter school is authorized to accept grants, gifts or donations of any kind and to expend or use such grants, gifts or donations. A grant, gift or donation may not be accepted by the governing body if it is subject to any condition contrary to law applicable to the charter school or other public schools, or contrary to the terms of the charter.

What is the process for opening a new charter school?

If a charter is approved by an approved sponsor, the charter application shall be submitted to the State Board of Education, including:
1. A statement of finding that the application meets the requirements of the charter school law; and
2. A monitoring plan under which the charter sponsor shall evaluate the academic performance of students enrolled in the charter school. The state board of education may, within sixty days, disapprove the granting of the charter. The state board of education may disapprove a charter on grounds that the application fails to meet the requirements of sections of the law or that a charter sponsor previously failed to meet the statutory responsibilities of a charter sponsor.

A charter school shall be, as provided in its charter: nonsectarian, compliant with laws and regulations of the state, county or city relating to health safety, state minimum educational standards, financially accountable, compliant with all federal audit requirements, providing a comprehensive program of instruction, measuring pupil progress, submitting an annual report card, compliant with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations regarding students with disabilities, and numerous other requirements.
Refer to Sections 160.400 to 160.425 and 167.349 , RSMo 2012.

What is the timeline for opening a charter school?

The law requires that charter applications have to be approved by Dec.1 for opening the following fall. For an application to be reviewed and approved bythe Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the application must be submitted before Oct.1. The writing of an application by a charter board, as well as application for all necessary nonprofit
status and incorporation usually takes six to 12 months.

How are state funds distributed to charter schools?

Charter schools receive funding just like other public school/LEAs. They report their Average Daily Attendance through the core data system at the Department.

Do charter schools h ave to participate in the state wide testing program?

Yes, charter schools must participate in the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP).

Are charter school MAP scores published somewhere?

Yes, all charter and public school test scores are available through the Missouri Comprehensive Data System (MCDS) at http://mcds.dese.mo.gov/Pages/default.aspx

Some Missouri charter schools have closed in recent years. How did this happen?

Closure of charter schools in Missouri has occurred for a variety of reasons including poor academic performance, financial distress or unsafe conditions. Sometimes the charter school boards make the decision to close a charter school because the school is financially insolvent. Other schools have closed because the school did not reach the goals agreed upon with their sponsors, so the sponsor closed them. Others have closed because their sponsor ceased being their sponsor due to poor performance.

Once a charter school is approved, do they have to be renewed for so many years?

Charter schools may only be renewed for five-year terms.

Do teachers and administrators have to be certified to work in a charter school ?

Yes, teachers must be certificated to work in a charter school. There is a provision given in Missouri Charter School Law for charter schools in Missouri to have 80 percent of their teachers certificated and 20 percent qualified to teach with certification in other states, countries, etc. However, if the school wishes to use federal funding, it must hire 100 percent certificated staff in order to meet the Highly Qualified Teacher requirements.

Are charter schools responsible for all accountability measures expected of public schools in the state?

Charter schools are held accountable for all performance standards applicable to the grades served in the school. Charter schools are not held accountable for resource and process standards.

Do charter schools offer summer schools like other public schools?

Like any public school, charter schools have the option to offer a 120 hour summer school. Many charter schools do, but it is a local decision that is made by the charter board.