What are charter schools?
Charter schools are non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations that have a contract or charter to provide the same educational services to students as district public schools. They are nonsectarian public schools that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools.
The "charters" establishing such schools are performance contracts detailing the schools’ mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. The length of time for which charters are granted can vary from three to 15 years. At the end of the term, the entity granting the charter may renew the school's contract.
Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor, usually a state or local school board, to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. The basic concept of charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for this accountability. They are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: the sponsor that grants them, the parents who choose them and the public that funds them.
Do charter schools charge tuition?
No, charter schools are public schools that receive public funds. They cannot charge tuition for the regular school day. They may charge fees for before and/or after school care.
Are charter schools required to employ certified teachers?
Yes. Statutory provisions require teachers employed by or under contract with a charter school to be certified as required by current law.
How are charter schools evaluated and assessed?
Every charter school must be evaluated on academic progress and the outcomes agreed upon in the school's binding contract. In addition, individual schools are evaluated and assigned a school grade using the same standards and criteria as traditional public schools.
Are charter schools graded?
Yes. Charter schools are evaluated and assigned a school grade by the Florida Department of Education using the same standards and criteria as district-run public schools.
Who is eligible to attend a charter school?
Charter schools are open to all students residing within the district; however, charter schools are allowed to target students within specific age groups or grade levels, students considered at-risk of dropping out or failing, students wishing to enroll in a charter school-in-the-workplace or charter school-in-a-municipality, students residing within a reasonable distance of the school, students who meet reasonable academic, artistic or other eligibility standards established by the charter school, or students articulating from one charter school to another. Additionally, a charter school may give enrollment preference to the following student populations:
- Siblings of current charter school students
- Children of a charter school governing board member or employee
- Children of employees of the business partner of a charter school-in-the-workplace or resident of the municipality in which such a charter is located
- Children of residents of a municipality that operates a charter school-in-a-municipality
- Students who have successfully completed a voluntary prekindergarten program provided by the charter school during the previous year
- Children of an active-duty member of any branch of the US Armed Forces.
How are charter school student enrollments funded?
Students enrolled in a charter school must be funded as if they are enrolled in a basic program or a special program at any other public school in the school district. Each charter school must report its student enrollment to the school district and the school district must include each charter school’s student enrollment in school district’s report of student enrollment that is submitted to the state.
A charter school is required by the Florida statutes to:
◦ be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and operations
◦ admit students as provided in subsection (10)
◦ be accountable to its sponsor for its performance
◦ not charge tuition and fees
◦ comply with all applicable state and local health, safety, and civil rights requirements
◦ not discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, sex, handicap, or marital status
◦ subject itself to an annual financial audit
◦ maintain all financial records that constitute its accounting system in accordance with current law
◦ annually adopt and maintain an operating budget
◦ provide an annual financial report and program cost report information
◦ be governed by a body that exercises continuing oversight over charter school operations and reports its progress annually to the school’s sponsor
◦ not levy taxes or issue bonds secured by tax revenues
◦ provide instruction for at least the number of days required by law for other public schools, and may provide instruction for additional days
According to s. 1002.331, F.S., a high-performing charter school is a school that has met each of the following criteria:
◦ Received at least two school grades of "A" and no school grade below "B" for the last three years
◦ Received an unqualified opinion on each annual audit in the most recent three years for which such audits are available
◦ Did not receive a financial audit that revealed one or more of the financial emergency conditions set forth in s. 218.503, F.S., in the most three recent fiscal years for which audits are available. (Exception: Charter school-in-the-workplace can meet this criteria if the audit determines that the school has the monetary resources available to cover any deficiency, or that the deficiency does not result in a deteriorating financial condition)