Charter Schools

Charter Schools

 

Charter schools in Missouri are independent public schools operating under an independent board of directors. They do not charge tuition or fees and are open to all students within a district. Opening a charter school requires that a group enter into an agreement with a sponsoring agency (an organization that reviews, approves and oversees the charter) and gain the approval of the State Board of Education. Current Missouri law provides for charter schools within the Kansas City and St. Louis school districts only.

 

Charter schools, like district schools, may provide opportunities to transform education by providing improved learning and achievement for students in an alternative setting. The core assumptions that drive a charter concept must include autonomy, innovation, accountability and transparency. These assumptions may positively influence student achievement, parental involvement and instructional freedom for teachers.

The success of a charter school depends upon criteria that include accountability, transparency and the protection of the rights of students, parents and charter school employees. All charter schools should meet these specified guidelines.

Accountability

The independent charter school board (an autonomous policy-setting body) should be accountable for:

 

1. participating in high-quality training that includes guidance regarding:

  • critical skill sets
  • accountability
  • board/administrator relationships
  • employer/employee relationships (collective bargaining training)
  • best practices
  • compliance with the Sunshine Law

2. developing and working toward clear written objectives and measurable outcomes
3. complying with all federal and state nondiscrimination and equal educational opportunity laws
4. demonstrating fiscal accountability and integrity in their use of funds, including disclosing any profit-taking by education management organizations (EMOs) which are for-profit companies that contract with charter school boards to provide a range of services
5. fulfilling the commitments made in the charter including at least one full year of planning prior to opening
6. securing adequate and equitable start-up resources including appropriate public funding to implement the charter
7. meeting safety and health standards equal to those of existing public schools
8. seeking and responding to community involvement in the design, implementation and governance of the charter school

 

The EMO should be accountable for registering with the Secretary of State’s office to conduct business in the state of Missouri.

 

The sponsoring agency should be accountable for:

 

1. designating a liaison to each sponsored charter school
2. conducting a rigorous and comprehensive charter-application approval process
3. monitoring progress toward objectives and providing organizational support as required
4. evaluating management, operations and performance of the charter including the MSIP assessment and the annual financial audit of the charter school
5. closing non-performing schools as quickly and efficiently as possible
6. monitoring compliance with all federal and state nondiscrimination and equal education opportunity laws
7. using state funds (currently 1.5 percent of the per-pupil money going to charter schools) to help charter schools with start-up; organization; professional development; and evaluation of the management, operations and performance of the charter every two years
8. certifying that the school has completed one full year of planning and preparation prior to opening
9. providing a high-quality mentoring program for school employees

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education should be accountable for:

 

1. approving the initial charter
2. developing a rigorous and comprehensive charter application approval process that requires adequate time for planning and preparing the charter school for approval and opening for business
3. developing a clear process and timelines for renewal, non-renewal, revocation and improvement (including the option to renew a charter for three years if specific academic or operational issues warrant a renewal period of less than five years)
4. enforcing standards for the employment of highly qualified teachers and education support professionals in accordance with state and federal policies applicable to public schools and the specific needs of their students
5. defining significant academic or operational failures or offenses that constitute grounds for revocation of a charter
6. developing charter school MSIP assessments that include the evaluation of:

  • curriculum and instruction, facilities, health and safety, educational programs and compliance with state performance standards.
  • adequacy of the sponsoring agency’s support for and communication with the school
  • operation and performance of the nonprofit board of the charter school (and EMO if contracted)
  • the quality of the partnership among the local school district, the sponsoring agency and the charter school

7. publishing the results of the MSIP assessments in a timely manner that allows parents to make informed choices
8. reporting student achievement statistics on DESE’s Web site (the same recordkeeping required for any other public school under state and federal law)

Transparency

 

The independent charter school board should be accountable for:

 

1. ensuring that board members are not employed by, or directly affiliated with, an employee of the EMO
2. complying with the Sunshine Law
3. reporting the extent and nature of EMO services to the public and DESE
4. contracting for an independent financial audit to the same degree as other public schools and publicly reporting the findings
5. disclosing all sources of start-up resources
6. disclosing sources, amounts and expenditures of federal, state and local public monies as well as private monies
7. providing DESE the information required in the Public School Report Card as required by the law

 

The sponsoring agency should be accountable for:

 

1. reporting student attrition rates annually to the public and DESE, including a follow-up report of where the students are one and two years after voluntarily or involuntarily leaving a charter school
2. reporting staff attrition rates
3. reporting reasons for charter renewal to the State Board of Education when a charter is renewed

DESE should monitor charter school staff attrition rates and report why staff transferred and to what jobs they transferred.

 

The local school board should be required to provide prospective charter school organizers the option to lease unused district school buildings and equipment.

Rights for Students and Parents

 

Students and parents should have the following rights when selecting, enrolling in, and attending a charter school:

1. an open and transparent nondiscriminatory admissions policy
2. nonsectarian curriculum and instruction program
3. no tuition or fees other than those fees as assessed by the local school district
4. safety and health standards equal to those required of other public schools
5. community involvement in the design, implementation and governance of the school
6. accommodations for the needs of at-risk students and those requiring special education services, including gifted education, to the extent required by state and federal law
7. voluntary enrollment in the charter school
8. student records that are complete and follow the student
9. the same due process protections as required by law in other public schools
10. policies that prevent re-segregation or increased segregation of the student population by race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status
11. the ability to remain in a charter school for the remainder of the school year if the family moves to another Missouri school district
12. access to the information provided in the Public School Report Card as required by state and federal law

 

Rights for Teachers and Education Support Professionals

 

Teachers and education support professionals should have the following rights as employees working in charter schools:

 

1. staff involvement in the design, implementation and governance of the school
2. safety and health standards equal to those required of public schools
3. voluntary participation of faculty and staff in extra duties or responsibilities
4. voluntary transfer for school employees if their schools are converted from or to public schools
5. the right of staff to organize and bargain collectively to ensure an organized voice on compensation, work hours and working conditions for all school employees
6. involvement in the same high-quality mentoring process as teachers in other public schools
7. access to state professional development through regional professional development centers
8. access to the resources and tools they need to accomplish their goals
9. the freedom to publish best practices and data to support the practice in light of student achievement
10. the freedom to try new ideas; keep data on how the practice affects student learning; and share the results with peers in the school, in the local school district, at conferences and through electronic communications

Although charter school laws vary from state to state, the MNEA Charter Schools Taskforce has analyzed the current reality for charter schools in Missouri and provides this position paper as guidance for members and other interested individuals. This position paper is not meant to be an endorsement of charter schools, but it is a template of standards charter schools and sponsoring agencies should meet.

Adopted by the MNEA Board of Directors 3-18-00
Revised and adopted by the MNEA Representative Assembly Nov. 9, 2000
Revised and adopted by the MNEA Representative Assembly Nov. 5, 2009


Missouri NEA Charter Schools Taskforce Members

 

Charles Smith (chairperson), MNEA vice president
Nancy Copenhaver, MNEA-Retired
Stephanie Dimmitt, Independence NEA
Brent Fullington, NEA director
Chris Guinther, MNEA president
Barb Johnson, MNEA-Retired
Stacy Molitor, Hazelwood NEA
Terry Reger, MNEA-Retired
Chris Shimel, Fort Osage NEA
Julia Todd, NEA director
Carol Weatherford, MNEA-Retired
Jo Ellen Potchen-Webb, Special School District NEA

 

MNEA Staff

Debra Angstead, communications director
DeeAnn Aull, director of programs and public relations
Otto Fajen, legislative director
Leila Medley, political director
Ann Jarrett, teaching and learning director
Ben Simmons, executive director

 

NEA Consultants

Kay Brilliant, Education Policy and Practices, NEA
Sue Chase, NEA Midwest Regional Team
Dennis Friel, NEA Midwest Regional Team (director)
Sara Gjerdrum, NEA Midwest Regional Team
John Outcelt, NEA Midwest Regional Team

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