What is a charter school?
A charter school is a public school operated independently under aperformance agreement with a chartering authority, such as a schooldistrict. The performance agreement spells out the school's educationprogram, goals, and other features. A charter school is free from mostregulations that apply to school districts. It usually is able to hireits own staff but can be closed for failure to meet its promisesregarding student performance or for financial mismanagement.How does someone start a charter school?
Groups of educators, parents, or community members can start a charterschool. Nonprofit and for-profit organizations, universities, or otheragencies may operate these schools.
Sometimes a schoolcommunity decides to turn its regular public school into a charter.These "conversion schools" make up about 30% of all charters inCalifornia. The other 70% - "start-up schools" - were started fromscratch. In either case, the creation of a charter begins with apetition that must contain 16 specific elements, including a descriptionof the school's structure, its expectations for student performance,the procedures for resolving disputes between the school and thechartering authority, and the procedures for closing the school.Petitioners must also describe the school's facilities, administrativeservices, auditing approach, and potential for lawsuits that wouldaffect the school and district.Granada Hills High Schoolwas converted to a charter school on July 1, 2003. The latest renewal isapproved through June 30, 2019.What if a chartering authority's school board denies a charter?
School boards are expected to grant the charter unless they makewritten findings that the petitioners have proposed an unsound educationprogram, are demonstrably unlikely to implement the charter, or do notmeet specific petition requirements. If a district denies a charter,petitioners can go to the county board of education. If the county boarddenies a charter request or an appeal, then petitioners can take theircase to the State Board of Education.Are there safeguards to ensure that students are being well educated?
Charter schools are approved for up to five years, with renewalgenerally required every five years. A charter can be revoked for:
- A material violation of the charter;
- Failure to meet or pursue the pupil performance outcomes described in the petition;
- Violation of generally accepted accounting standards of fiscal management; and
- Violations of the law.
However, unless the violation constitutes a severe and imminent threatto the health or safety of students, charter operators are given achance to remedy the situation. In addition, the State Board ofEducation has the authority to revoke a charter if it finds fiscalmismanagement.
Charter schools are also held accountable forthe performance of their students on statewide standards tests and areranked according to the Academic Performance Index (API) with a fewexceptions. Their students must also make adequate yearly progress(AYP), based on test scores, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act(NCLB).Does a student have to live in the school district where the charter school is located?
Generally admission cannot be based on where a student lives. But when a regular school is converted to a charter (as in the case of GHCHS
) it must give preference to students who live within the former attendance area.How are they financed?
Charter schools receive money on a per-pupil basis from the state andfederal governments either directly or through their charteringauthority. Like other schools, they receive extra funding for studentswho are English learners or from low-income families. They also havemore flexibility in how they use many state categorical funds, which forregular schools are targeted for specific students or programs. Charterschools may also rely on independent fundraising, grants, and corporatesponsors for additional funds.Who governs charter schools?
While a charter school is required to consult regularly with parents and teachers about its education program, it is generally not required to have any particular type of governing body or board. Effective January 2015 and reflected in the GHCHS Bylaws, the Governing Board composition shall consist of a minimum of seven (7) and not more than nine (9) voting Members:
Terms are served for two years. In addition, all stakeholders are included as voting members on three standing committees that develop policies for the school.
- five (5) to seven (7) at large/community members
- one (1) Parent/Guardian (non-interested)
- one (1) Retired GHCHS Teacher (non-interested)
- one (1) Administrator (non-voting member)
- one (1) Student (non-voting member)
All information (other than text in italics) taken from EdSource, Charter Schools in California
. May 2005.
For more information, go to:
California Charter Schools Association: www.charterassociation.org
Charter Schools Development Center : www.cacharterschools.org
U.S. Charter Schools: www.uscharterschools.org