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Following are some answers to many FAQ’s as answered by the online resources at the Charter Schools Development Center:
What is a charter school?
A charter school is a new form of public school that may be started and operated by a school district, individuals or organizations from outside of the traditional public school district system. Successful charter school developers are granted a charter to operate a public school for a fixed period of time (in California usually for 5 years). Charter schools are generally exempt from most laws that apply to regular public schools, so administrators, faculty, staff and parents have considerable autonomy in designing an educational program, facilities and budget that meet the needs of their students. In exchange for this increased autonomy, charter schools are held much more strictly accountable than most non-charter public schools. Charter schools must meet all of the student performance and operational goals listed in their charter, or their charter may be revoked. The first charter school law was passed in Minnesota in 1992. California was the second state to enact charter legislation in 1992, authored by then Senator Gary K. Hart. There are now 40 states, plus Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and Washington, D.C., with charter schools.
The charter school reform concept is part of a larger policy effort to fundamentally alter the structure of the public education system in an effort to (1) provide quality public education choices for families, (2) enable change-oriented educators to establish and operate new, innovative schools, and (3) provide increased competition within the public education sector. It's the competitive aspect of the charter concept that makes it controversial and also powerful. The charter school reform concept was largely developed by Ted Kolderie, a public policy expert at the Center for Policy Studies in St. Paul, Minnesota.
How are charter schools governed?
There is a range of governance structures in charter schools. In California, some charter schools, referred to legally as "dependent" charter schools, are established or remain a legal arm of the school district or county office of education that granted their charter. This is how the Competitive Edge Charter Academy charter petition K-8 is written. Other charter schools, a.k.a. legally "independent" charter schools, function as independent legal entities and are usually governed by or as public benefit ("not-for-profit") corporations. Still other charter schools form some sort of legal hybrid, or "in-between" structure, in which some governance powers remain with the district or county and others rest with the school governing body. The school's governance structure must be clearly described in the charter. The charter-granting agency has the responsibility to ensure that the charter schools for which they have granted charters are meeting the terms of their charter, are fiscally managed well, and are complying with all applicable laws.
Do charter schools have to provide special education programs and services?
Charter schools are required to follow federal laws pertaining to special education (e.g., Section 504, Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Charter schools must provide a free and appropriate education for children with special needs identified in an individualized education plan, but may contract with a private vendor, school district, Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), or other agency to provide the services. The Competitive Edge Charter Academy K-8 will continue to work with the YCJUSD in order to provide special education services to its students.
Do you need to be credentialed to teach in a charter school?
CA Education Code Section 47605(l) provides that, "Teachers in charter schools shall be required to hold a CA Commission on Teacher Credentialing certificate, permit or other document equivalent to that which a teach in other public schools would be required to hold." In addition, the law states that "It is the intent of the Legislature that charter schools be given flexibility with regard to noncore, noncollege preparatory courses." The meaning of these laws is in frequent dispute and the terms "noncore" and "noncollege preparatory" have not been defined for credentialing purposes. The 2001 changes to the Elementary and Secondary Educaion Act (ESEA), also known as “No Child Left Behind,” include provisions that define “highly qualified” teachers. The YCJUSD Human Resources department will be conducting employee services to the Competitive Edge Charter Academy K-8 as it currently provides to other schools in the District.
How are charter schools funded?
Charter school funding varies from state to state. In California, charter schools receive state and local funding in a per student allotment also known as average daily attendance (ADA). This allotment is based on statewide averages, dependent on the grade level of the students. Many charter schools also receive state and federal funding through categorical programs as appropriate. Several charter schools also write for public grants and receive contributions from individuals and private foundations to support their operations. As public schools, charter schools are not allowed to charge tuition.