CHARTER SCHOOL CONTRACTING Introduction Common application, checklist for completeness and review rubric developed earlier this year. Sample contract developed at the request of districts. Collaborative effort of Charter School Institute, CO Dept of Education and CO League of Charter Schools. Ongoing vetting by attorneys, authorizers, and the charter school community. Charter School Facts Charter Schools Act enacted in 1993 October 2009: 160 schools serving 66,000 students in kindergarten through grade 12 Urban and rural, on-line and brick/mortar Fewer than 30 to more than 5000 students 45 districts and CSI authorize charter schools Largest three authorizers have 24, 20, and 15 schools; 25 authorizers have only one charter school More than 44,000 students on waiting lists Charter School Philosophies Autonomy in return for accountability Autonomy and accountability defined through the charter contract Creative and innovative Market driven Outcome, not process, driven Unique populations Special student interests The right to fail Quality Charter Contracts Establish a transparent relationship between the parties. Promote success of the charter school. Reflect that outcomes are more important than process. Detail each parties rights and responsibilities Take into account the district and school’s unique circumstances Quality Charter Contracts Balance oversight and autonomy Clearly define material vs. non-material changes Clearly define the range of district interventions and related procedures Are user-friendly Contract Cautions Each party needs legal counsel. There are many ways to say the same thing. There are different legal views of some common charter contract provisions. Not every circumstance can be anticipated by a contract – there is no substitute for collaborative problem solving. New issues do not necessarily require a new contract provision – less can be more. Contracts with schools should evolve over time as the relationship between the parties matures. Authorizer should adhere to authorizer quality standards. Sections of the Contract Section 1: Introduction Section 2: Establishment of School Section 3: District-School Relationship Section 4: School Governance Section 5: Operation of School and Waivers Section 6: School Enrollment and Demographics Sections of the Contract Section 7: Educational Program Section 8: Financial Matters Section 9: Personnel Section 10: Service Contracts with the District Section 11: Facilities Section 12: Charter Renewal, Revocation, and School-Initiated Closure Section 13: General Provisions Key Sections Section 3: District-School Relationship 3.1 District Rights and Responsibilities A. Right to review B. Complaints C. School health or safety issues D. Feedback about progress E. Access to student records 3.2 School responsibilities and rights A. Records B. Notification Provided to the District C. Compliance D. Reports Section 3: District-School Relationship 3.3 Indemnification. 3.4 Procedures for Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws amendments. 3.5 District-school dispute resolution procedures. 3.6 Other remedies. 3.7 District violations of charter school law or this contract Section 3 Contents Spells out the obligations and authority of each party Charter school obligations: Maintain records Notify authorizer when certain conditions arise Comply with law, the contract, and district policies (unless waived) Complete listed and other reports on-time District obligations Review school operations including records Notify the charter school when complaints about it are received Minimize reporting requirements Provide annual feedback about progress Section 3 Contents Corrective action (Other Remedies) Corrective action provides options for authorizers prior to initiating revocation process. The range of options and the corrective action chosen needs to match the range of possible violations. Prior to intervening (other than immediate threats to student health or safety), a school should be given notice of the allegations, the evidence supporting the allegation, an opportunity to respond, the time frame for correcting the deficiency, and the expected result. Section 7: Educational Program 7.1 Vision. 7.2 Mission. 7.3 School goals. 7.4 School objectives. A. Mission-specific school objectives B. District Accreditation Indicators 7.5 Educational program characteristics. 7.6 GED and online programs. 7.7 Curriculum, instructional program, and pupil performance standards. 7.8 Graduation requirements. 7.9 English language learners. 7.10 Education of students with disabilities. Section 7 Contents Mission and vision are incorporated into the contract body. Educational program characteristics requiring authorizer approval to change are included in the contract. Charter school objectives are incorporated into the contract. Objectives include both school-selected, mission-specific outcomes and authorizer’s school accreditation indicators. Accreditation indicators should include operations and financial, as well as academic indicators. For high schools, graduation requirements and diploma details are included in the contract. Section Ten: Service Contracts with the District Purchased services agreements are separated from other financial provisions. Purchased service agreements are completely voluntary, except for special education and central administrative overhead costs. Agreements are typically negotiated for one-year only with the option to renew the agreement. Other Contract Highlights Educational service provider agreements Material changes Waivers Enrollment of students with disabilities Education Service Provider Agreements Applicable to both for-profit or not-for-profit providers Requires that certain provisions must be included in the ESP- charter school contract Permits charter school board to end the contract either for cause or without cause and without penalty. Prohibits ESP employees or others with relationship to ESP from serving on the charter board. Requires school records to be maintained at local school. Funds are maintained in approved Colorado banks until paid to the ESP. ESP contract cannot exceed the length of the charter contract. Charter board must have its own legal counsel. Charter board must withhold sufficient funds to carry out its oversight functions including independent audit, legal counsel, training, and hiring other identified specialists. Governance documents should include a required charter board member conflict of interest disclosure. Material Changes Application is referenced and certain pieces are lifted out and incorporated into the body of the contract or attachments. “Material changes” are the key, “mission-critical” issues that should require contract revisions. The contract should dilineate those changes that may be made without a contract revision – for example, with notice only or notice and opportunity to comment. Waivers 5.5 Waivers. A. State laws and regulations i. Automatic waivers ii. Additional waiver requests iii. Procedures for additional waiver requests iv. Subsequent waiver requests B. District policies i. Automatic waivers ii. Additional waivers iii. Subsequent waiver requests iv. Revocation of waivers Waivers Delineates waivers of state law from district policy because procedures are different. Does not require the waiver of non-applicable laws or policies or ones that are fully delegated through the contract. Enrollment of students with disabilities Decisions about whether or not to admit a particular student with disabilities to a charter school should be made after the lottery or other enrollment prioritization process. A screening team consisting of the School Principal or designee, the School mild/moderate teacher, and a District representative reviews the IEP or Section 504 Plan, and, determines whether the services and space available at the School are sufficient to deliver the program required by the IEP or to provide the accommodations required in the Section 504 Plan. A student with disabilities in a center-based program or who has intensive service needs as identified by an IEP Team applies for admission into a charter school, the principal of the school shall convene an IEP Team meeting. The application for admission is contingent upon the determination by the IEP Team that the student can receive a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment at the charter school in its existing programs and at its current level of staffing. Next Steps Continue to vet the sample contract language and narrative Authorizers Attorneys Charter school leaders Make sample contract language available electronically Evaluate its effectiveness & revise as necessary Questions?
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