Understanding Charter Schools

UNDERSTANDING CHARTER SCHOOLS


Charter schools allow parents the choice of a free, public education for their child, and allow for a higher degree of parent involvement. Students are educated in an environment that is similar to private education, but there is no tuition charged.

A charter school is allocated public educational funds, but is governed by a privately assembled School Board comprised of community leaders and parents. Charter schools are subject to the same laws and regulations as other public schools, conforming to laws regarding religion in schools, school fees, civil rights, annual reports, and health and safety regulations. Charter schools are open to all students, regardless of race, religion, gender, status, or other preference. However, a charter school may have a limited capacity for enrollment. Charter schools are held to similar regulations in hiring of teachers as public schools, and teachers are required to hold valid teaching certificates and meet state board requirements. Charter school curricula must include the state core, and state/federal defined testing standards must be adhered to. Most charter school curriculums have offerings that go beyond a typical public school curriculum.

OTHER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS RELATED TO CHARTER SCHOOLS


May a charter school limit its enrollment to certain students?
No. A charter school is part of the public education system and so must be open to all students, without discrimination, on the same basis as other public schools. If the number of students applying to enroll in a charter school exceeds the capacity of the school or of programs, classes, or grade levels within the school, then those students to be admitted are chosen at random (via lottery) from among the applicants.

Are charter schools subject to the same regulations as other public schools?
As a general rule, yes. Laws and regulations relating to religion in the schools, school fees and tuition, health and safety, civil rights, annual reports, prohibitions against advocacy of unlawful behavior, screening of potential employees or volunteers for copetency and fitness, and most other matters are the same for both charter schools and other public schools. The State Board may waive any of its rules for a charter school or other public school, if the school applies for a waiver and the State Board finds that the waiver would not violate applicable law or cause harm to students or the school.

A charter school is exempt from existing negotiated agreements relating to the hiring, employment, and dismissal of employees. A charter school's governing body may determine the level of compensation and the terms and conditions of employment for its employees. Charter schools may only employ educators who hold valid teaching certificates or who meet State Board requirements for alternative certification or authorization.

How are charter schools held accountable for what they do?
A charter school must make the same annual reports as other public schools, including an annual financial audit and monthly budget report. Additionally, charter schools must participate in statewide testing programs. Charter schools submit all reports to the Utah State Board of Education.

How are charter schools financed?
Charter schools are funded on the principle that allocated state funds should follow the student. A charter school may not charge tuition or require (though they may request) that students or parents make donations. Charter schools are subject to the same rules regarding school fees and fee-for-service programs as other public schools.

Allocated statefunds are distributed (under the Minimum School Program Act) on a Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) basis that takes into account both total enrollment and attendance. In addition, the legislature appropriates funds each year to replace some of the local property tax revenues that are not available to charter schools. Charter schools may also apply for state and federal start-up funds and specialized funds if qualifying students are served in approved programs.

More information about Utah State Charter Schools can be found at:
http://www.schools.utah.gov/charterschools