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The 21st Century Charter Schools Initiative

The 21st Century Charter Schools Initiative

WAIVERS & LEGAL

WAIVERS & LEGAL AUTONOMY: Agoodcharterlawis one that automatically exempts charter schools from most of the school district’s laws and regulations. Of course no charter school is exempt from the most fundamental laws concerning civil rights. Waivers also should exempt a charter school from adhering to the district’s collective bargaining agreement. This gives a principal more flexibility to hire the best staff for a given school. A state law should allow a charter school to be its own legal entity. This lets a charter school buy property, enter into contracts, and control staffing. FULL FUNDING & FISCAL AUTONOMY: Acharterschool needs to have control of its own finances to run efficiently. The charter school’s operators know the best way to spend funds and the charter law should reflect this. Charter schools are entitled to receive the same amount of per pupil funding as conventional public schools. Many states and districts withhold money from individual charter schools to cover fees and “administrative costs,” but the best laws provide full funding for all public schools. To ensure that your state has a strong charter law, become involved in the legislative process. Identify one person that is your ambassador, or lead man in this process. This person needs to be committed to the adoption of a charter school law, and have a good relationship with those responsible for passing such a law. The legislative process also offers the ideal time to begin spreading the charter concept, informing parents, educators and communities about the benefits, and working to allay fears and nip misinformation campaigns in the bud. Often, this is when the state charter association is born. Such associations are dedicated to promoting quality charter schools that foster student achievement. Need more information on your state’s law? CER has compiled a detailed state-by-state analysis of each charter school law – http://www.edreform.com/charter_schools/laws/ 3

Starting Up What is the concept of your charter school? It is important to have an idea of the type of school you think will best benefit your community. One of the great gifts a charter law gives us is the opportunity to ask the question, “if we could have the best public school we can imagine for our children, what would it look like? How would it operate? What would be the defining characteristic of our school?” Once you have that basic idea in place, talk with your friends and others in your community about their own educational concerns. Some of these people may in fact become part of your planning and governance team, and their input will prove to be a valuable resource going forward. Governance The launching of a charter school starts with an idea for building a better school, shared by a group of dedicated individuals. They may already be education providers who seek more freedom to innovate, entrepreneurs who see a way to create an education delivery system that runs more efficiently and provides more options, community organizers who seek to serve children who are falling through the cracks, or any combination of these (parents, teachers, businesses, non-profits, social service agencies, etc.) who share a vision for educational quality. The process begins with passion and commitment, but must be tempered and guided by a strong and focused organization. It is important to develop a sound governance structure and process, to ensure that the initial vision is correctly executed and to avoid problems down the road. Governance is one of the most critical issues charter developers must address. The charter development team should be composed of people who share a common vision for a better school, but can offer expertise in a variety of areas. Team members must understand that consensus is not the ultimate goal. Rather, they must focus on turning their shared vision into a schoolhouse full of learning students. 4

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