Operating a Charter School

Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning that no one is assigned or zoned to attend a charter school. Instead, families choose a charter school for their children. Per state statute, charter schools operate with certain freedom from some of the regulations that are imposed upon district-run schools. For instance, charter schools can make their own decisions regarding what state-approved, research-based curriculum they wish to implement; or whether or not they will require their students to wear uniforms. However, all charter schools in Florida must abide by strict academic and financial accountability measures. Outlined below are key components that are critical to operating a successful charter school.  If you do not find the information you need here, please contact us for assistance.

Charter School Law in Florida

It is imperative that all charter school operators, principals, and governing board members be familiar with charter school law in Florida.  The link below will take you to Florida Statute 1002.33 Charter schools.  Within that document you will find the guiding principles for operating a charter school – from sponsor duties to your financial and academic requirements. When in doubt, please refer to the charter school statute:

A charter school is statutorily required to (s.1002.33 (9) F.S.):

  • Be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and operations;
  • Be accountable to the school district for its performance;
  • Not charge tuition or 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 and pay for 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;
  • Fully participate in the state’s education accountability program.

Charter school exemptions and requirements

Charter schools are exempt from the Florida K-20 Education Code (Ch.1000-1013, Florida Statutes), except those statutes specifically applying to charter schools; pertaining to the student assessment program and school grading system; pertaining to the provision of services to students with disabilities; pertaining to civil rights, pertaining to student health, safety and welfare; and relating to maximum class size, except the calculation for compliance shall be the average at the school level instead of the stricter period by period standard applied to traditional public schools. All charter schools are required to follow state statutes pertaining to the implementation of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS/RtI) and intensive interventions for struggling students.

Florida Model Charter Contract

Per Student Funding / Full-time Equivalent (FTE) information, deadlines

The 2018-19 Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) provides funding for a 180-day regular school year, or the hourly equivalent of 180 days. Charter schools – like district-run schools – are required to report FTE to the Florida Department of Education.  Click here for details about FEFP programs that are eligible for FTE reporting and funding.

Funding and Financial Reporting publications and worksheets.

Public Records Compliance

Charter schools must comply with any statute governing public records; public meetings and records; public inspection; and penalties (Ch. 119, Florida Statutes). Click here for a list of “public records.”

District / Charter School Relationship

It is essential that districts and charter schools create a culture of mutual communication, collaboration, cooperation, and transparency. Charter school operators need to understand District processes, procedures, and expectations; and district authorizers need to respect the charter school autonomy. The FCSA encourages charter school operators to build a cooperative relationship with their district authorizer.  Click here to see our presentation from the 2017 State Charter Schools Conference about this.

Marketing your school

Today’s parents are savvy education consumers. They know there are many quality education options available to them – from public charter schools to magnet program, district-run schools to vouchers and online programs – and they will research and scrutinize programs until they find one that best fits their child’s needs. This means that charter schools need to provide a quality program that meets parents’ expectations, a vibrant marketing strategy too let prospective parents know about you. Click here to see the FCSA’s presentation: Branding Excellence – How to use parent engagement, social media, and advertising to fill seats, recruit students, and expand your brand.

NOTE: This requires member log-in

How are charter schools graded?

Public schools – including charter schools – in Florida are graded on an A-F scale. This grade is part of Florida’s school accountability system, which originated with the Florida Legislature’s passage of Assistance Plus (A+) legislation in 1999. Click here to see the school grade formula breakdown, 2018.

How are alternative charter schools graded?

Alternative schools and ESE Centers are part of the Florida’s Accountability System however, they do not receive a grade. Instead, they receive a School Improvement Rating of Commendable, Maintaining, or Unsatisfactory.

A charter school may give lottery preferences to:

  • Siblings of a student enrolled in the school
  • Children of members of the governing board
  • Children of an employee of the school
  • Children of active duty member of military branch
  • Special Circumstances
  • Employee of a business partner (if it’s a school-in-the-workplace)
  • Resident of municipality (if it’s a municipal charter school)
  • Students who were in VPK provided by the charter school
  • Resident/Employee of municipality allowing a charter to use land (per HB7029, July 2016)

What is Controlled Open Enrollment?

Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, charter schools “shall allow a parent from any school district in the state whose child is not subject to a current expulsion or suspension to enroll his or her child in and transport his or her child to any … charter school, that has not reached capacity …”

How to forge a great relationship with your governing board – Tips from principal at a successful charter school

Communicating with and about people with disabilities

Parent Liaison Requirement

Charter schools may require parents to volunteer hours or assisting at the school in some capacity. However, in a legal opinion issued by the Florida Department of Education, “Florida law does not provide an opportunity for a charter school to allow volunteer hours identified in a parent volunteer contract to be “purchased” as a monetary donation to the school.”

Teacher certification requirements

Per state statute, charter schools must hire state certified teachers.  You may also hire teachers who are eligible for certification by the Florida Department of Education and/or are working towards their certification. Charter School Administrators School administrators are not required to hold certification from the Florida Department of Education.

Governing Board Meetings

Each charter school’s governing board must hold at least 2 public meetings per school year in the school district where the school is located. The meetings must be noticed, open, and accessible to the public; and all attendees must be provided an opportunity to offer input regarding the schools operations and receive information about the school. The parent liaison must be physically present at the two required meetings.

Teacher Evaluation Requirement

Florida Statutes requires school districts and charter schools to establish procedures for evaluating the performance of instructional, administrative, and supervisory personnel.  The FCSA developed a comprehensive Teacher Evaluation Tool for member schools.  Contact us to access the tool.

Click here to view State Board of Education rule on Teacher Evaluations.

Providing ESE Services to charter school students

Charter schools are required to provide Exceptional Student Education (ESE) services.  We recommend you review your charter contract for specifics about this issue.  Also, a school district may provide ESE services as part of your contact or make them available for purchase.

Click here to listen to advise from a Special Ed Advisor, Lillian Salazar.

Do charter schools have to provide transportation?

Charter schools are not required to provide transportation, however, transportation cannot be a barrier for enrollment or attendance. According to Charter school law (Section 1002.33, F.S.):

  • “Transportation of charter school students shall be provided by the charter school consistent with the requirements of subpart I.E. of chapter 1006 and s. 1012.45.
  • “The governing body of the charter school may provide transportation through an agreement or contract with the district school board, a private provider, or parents.”

“The charter school and the sponsor shall cooperate in making arrangements that ensure that transportation is not a barrier to equal access for all students residing within a reasonable distance of the charter school as determined in its charter.”

What is a High Performing Charter School

A high-performing charter school must meet the following criteria per Section 1002.33, Florida Statutes:

  • In operation for a minimum of three (3) years;
  • Received a school grade of at least “A” or “B” pursuant to s. 1008.34 in 3 of the past 4 years; and
  • Is not in a state of financial emergency or deficit position as defined by this section.

How to handle a parent complaint

We recommend that you encourage parents to contact their principal or an administrator if the have questions or concerns about your charter school.  Please include name and contact information for your admin team on the school’s website.  If a parent feels they need further support, please refer the parent to the school’s parent liaison. That contact information should be posted on your school’s website and provided to all your staff.

What is the Per Student Funding in Florida?

Charter schools are funded through the Florida Education Finance Program in the same way as all other public schools. The charter school receives operating funds from the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) based on the number of full-time (FTE) students enrolled. The 2018-19 Florida Education Finance Progarm (FEFP) provides funding for a 180-day regular school year – as outlined in Section 1011.60 (2) F.S., or the hourly equivalent of 180 days.

 

Click here to see the Full-time Equivalent (FTE) General Instructions, 2018-2019, from the Florida Department of Education

Charter schools may also access federal funds through a competitive grant process that awards funds to charter schools for:

  • Planning and Implementation – the Florida Department of Education administers the Charter Schools Program (CSP) Planning and Implementation grant through a request for proposals (RFP) process each year. The general purpose of this grant is to provide financial assistance for the planning, program design, and initial implementation of charter schools and expand the number of high quality charter schools in Florida.
  • Dissemination – This competitive grant aids successful charter schools in the dissemination of best practices and other information about charter schools. Charter schools in operation for at least three years who have not previously received a dissemination grant may be eligible to apply. Additional eligibility criteria may be established by the Department and may vary with each application cycle.

More info about funding click here.

Capital Outlay

Beginning in fiscal year 2019-2020, charter school capital outlay funding shall consist of state funds when such funds are appropriated in the General Appropriations Act and revenue resulting from the discretionary millage authorized in s. 1011.71(2), F.S., if the amount of state funds appropriated for charter school capital outlay in any fiscal year is less than the average charter school capital outlay funds per unweighted full-time equivalent student for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, multiplied by the estimated number of charter school students for the applicable fiscal year, and adjusted by changes in the Consumer Price Index issued by the United States Department of Labor from the previous fiscal year.

Determination of financial emergency

All charter schools are required to submit an Annual Financial Audit report to their sponsor

Class Size Reduction & Charter Schools

Charter schools must comply with section 1003.03, F.S. relating to maximum class size using the school average by grade group.

Click here to access Charter Schools Class Size Compliance 2018-2019

Click here to access Charter Schools Class Size Appeals

The steps for calculating class size are summarized as follows:
  1. Count the number of students in each class within each room/period.
  2. For students reported multiple times in a single room/period combination, count each student only once. Students are occasionally assigned to more than one course for a class, e.g., ESE students enrolled in both an ESE course and mainstream course for a given class period.
  3. Determine the main course taught in each room/period based on the course with the majority of students.
  4. Determine the main grade taught in each room/period based on the grade with the majority of students in the main course.
  5. Determine whether or not the main course is a “core” course.
  6. Determine the numerator by compiling the total unduplicated count of students based on the main grade of each class for which the main course is “core,” allowing for adjustments based on scheduling method. Then, add up these student counts for all classes.
  7. Determine the denominator by counting all classes in which the main course is “core.”
  8. Calculate the class size for each grade group range of the school (K-3, 4-8, 9-12) by dividing the numerator (student count) by the denominator (class count).

Permissible uses for capital outlay

Charter schools must comply with section 1003.03, F.S. relating to maximum class size using the school average by grade group.

According the state statute, the permissible uses of capital outlay funds by charter schools are:

  • Purchase of real property
  • Construction of school facilities
  • Purchase, lease-purchase, or lease of permanent or relocatable school facilities
  • Purchase of vehicles to transport students to and from the charter school
  • Renovation, repair, and maintenance of school facilities that the charter school owns or is purchasing through a lease-purchase or long-term lease of 5 years or longer
  • Purchase, lease-purchase, or lease of new and replacement equipment, and enterprise resource software applications
  • Payment of the cost of premiums for property and casualty insurance for the school facilities
  • Purchase, lease-purchase, or lease of driver’s education vehicles, maintenance vehicles or equipment, security vehicles, or vehicles used in storing or distributing materials and equipment.

Florida Charter School List by District

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) School Identification

2017-18 Baseline Federal Index and ESSA Support Categories by School Excel sheet. The report contains a tab with basic Federal Index data, a tab with detailed Federal Index data, and a data dictionary tab for understanding the data.

Important update: Florida’s ESSA State Plan includes a new calculation for specific subgroups. Click here to see a PowerPoint that explains the new reporting category.

New School District Requirements as a Result of House Bill 7055 (Chapter 2018-6, Laws of Florida)- July 2018

The 2018 Legislature passed, and Governor Scott signed into law, House Bill 7055. There are several new district and charter school responsibilities and considerations in this bill.  Summary memo is available.

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