CHARTER SCHOOL FAQs
What is a charter school?
A charter school is a public school operated independently under a performance agreement with a chartering authority, such as a school district. The performance agreement spells out the school's education program, goals, and other features. A charter school is free from most regulations that apply to school districts. It usually is able to hire its own staff but can be closed for failure to meet its promises regarding student performance or for financial mismanagement.
How does someone start a charter school?
Groups of educators, parents, or community members can start a charter school. Nonprofit and for-profit organizations, universities, or other agencies may operate these schools.
Sometimes a school community decides to turn its regular public school into a charter.These "conversion schools" make up about 30% of all charters in California. The other 70% - "start-up schools" - were started from scratch. In either case, the creation of a charter begins with a petition that must contain 16 specific elements, including a description of the school's structure, its expectations for student performance,the procedures for resolving disputes between the school and the chartering authority, and the procedures for closing the school. Petitioners must also describe the school's facilities, administrative services, auditing approach, and potential for lawsuits that would affect the school and district.
Granada Hills High School was converted to a charter school on July 1, 2003. The latest renewal is approved 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 make written findings that the petitioners have proposed an unsound education program, are demonstrably unlikely to implement the charter, or do not meet specific petition requirements. If a district denies a charter, petitioners can go to the county board of education. If the county board denies a charter request or an appeal, then petitioners can take their case 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 renewal generally 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.
Charter schools are also held accountable for the performance of their students on statewide standards tests and are ranked according to the Academic Performance Index (API) with a few exceptions. 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 and federal governments either directly or through their chartering authority. Like other schools, they receive extra funding for students who are English learners or from low-income families. They also have more flexibility in how they use many state categorical funds, which for regular schools are targeted for specific students or programs. Charter schools may also rely on independent fundraising, grants, and corporate sponsors 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:
- 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