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In order to address the serious problems undermining the existing school system, many states have written laws and made provisions to enable teachers, parents and community leaders to create charter schools.  A charter school must be nonsectarian in its programs and cannot discriminate against any students.  Furthermore, it is not allowed to impose school fees on its students.  World Prosperity offers free assistance to individuals and groups in the process of forming charter schools.  Although a charter school is a public-funded institution that offers educational services for students from grades K-12, it can be distinguished from a conventional public school in three primary ways:

     • Encourage alternative and innovative instructional strategies.

     • Provide learning experiences that cater to the distinctive needs of students, especially the ones who have been labeled as “academically low achieving” in conventional public school.

     • Empower teachers to implement learning programs without outside intervention.

A charter is a document that describes how the new school will work. Anyone may write a charter.  The charter developers must obtain the signatures of either 50 percent of the teachers meaningfully interested in teaching at the school, or 50 percent of the parents of pupils expected to enroll at the school.  It is usually authorized by an existing local public school board, or county board of education.  If they reject the charter petition, the petitioners may appeal to the State Board of Education (SBE) within 180 days.

Typically, a local governing board must hold a public hearing to consider the proposed charter within 30 days from the receipt of the completed petition. Within 60 days from the receipt of the petition, the governing must decide whether to approve or reject the charter petition.

Charter school law does not attempt to define a "school."  Except where specifically required, charter schools are generally exempt from state laws governing school districts.   Furthermore, the law mandates that the chartering authority should comply with the legislative intent that promotes the establishment of charter schools.  When denying a charter petition, a school district governing board must be able to provide a factual report that identifies the following problems with the petition:

     • The proposed educational program of the school does not meet acceptable standards.

     • Petitioners have failed to demonstrate their ability to implement the educational program described in the charter.

     • Petitioners have failed to obtain the required number of signatures for filing the charter petition.

     • The charter petition has not provided adequate information for each of the 15 required elements set in the Education Code Section 47605:

1. Education program of the school

2. Measurable standards of pupil outcomes

3. Process of measuring students’ progress towards reaching the outcomes

4. Governance structure

5. Qualifications of employees

6. Health and safety procedures

7. Plans for ensuring racial and ethnic balance in student composition

8. Admissions requirements (optional)

9. Annual financial audits

10. Conditions leading to students being expelled or suspended

11. Employee coverage

12. Availability of public school alternatives for students residing in the district of the charter schools

13. Rights of employees moving either from school district to charter schools and vice versa.

14. Dispute resolution process

15. Declaration stating whether the charter school will be the sole public school employer of charter school employees

Upon approval, the State Department of Education administers a grant program to provide start-up costs for charter schools.  In addition, there is a charter school revolving loan program that provides startup loans of up to $250,000 for charter schools in their first term of operation, which must be repaid within five years of the receipt of the loans.  Ongoing operational funding is provided to charter schools based on actual attendance.  The initial grant of the charter is the maximum of five years.  The charters are subject to renewal for an indefinite number of five-year periods.

Learn more by going to the California Dept of Education web site.  You can obtain templates for a school charter.  Samples of actual school charters are also available.

These provisions have effectively removed the legal and financial barriers to meaningful education.  The remaining obstacles lie in the minds of the people.

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