Measuring Up

 



Arizona

TOTAL SCORE:
160 out of 240

Rank: 11 out of 44

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted: 1994
Estimated Number of Charter Schools in 2016-17: 547
Estimated Number of Charter School Students in 2014-15: 180,000

Arizona’s law does not have a cap on charter public school growth, allows multiple authorizing entities, and provides a fair amount of autonomy and accountability to its charter schools. However, the law still provides inequitable funding to charter school students by barring their access to significant funding streams.

Potential areas for improvement in Arizona’s law include ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities, providing adequate authorizer funding, and strengthening accountability for full-time virtual charter schools.

Do Arizona's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Arizona's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Arizona law does not place any caps on charter school growth.

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1A. No numeric or geographic limits are placed on the number of charter schools or students.

1B. If caps exist, there is room for growth.

N/A

2. A Variety of Charter Public Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Arizona law allows new start-ups and public school conversions.

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2A. New startups.

2B. Public school conversions.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Arizona law allows charter applicants to apply to the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools (ASBCS), the state board of education, a university, a community college district, or a group of community college districts. However, the state board of education has a self-imposed moratorium on charter authorizing, so ASBCS currently oversees all schools approved by both state boards.

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3A. The state allows two or more authorizing options (e.g., school districts and a state charter schools commission) for each applicant with direct application to each authorizer.

4. Authorizer & Overall Program Accountability System Required

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Arizona law requires authorizes to submit an annual report to the auditor general on or before October 1st of each year. The report shall include the current number of charters authorized and the number of schools operated by authorized charter holders, the academic and operational performance of the authorizer’s charter portfolio as measured by the authorizer’s adopted performance framework, the number of new charters approved and the number of charter schools closed and reason for the closure in the prior year, and the authorizer’s application, amendment, renewal, and revocation processes, charter contract template, and current performance framework.

The law requires the auditor general to review the submitted annual reports to ensure that the reports include the required items. If the auditor general finds significant noncompliance or a authorizer’s failure to submit the annual report on or before December 21st of each year, the auditor general shall report to the governor, the president of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Chairs of the Senate and House Education Committees or their successor committees and the legislature shall consider revoking the authorizer’s authority to authorize charter schools.

The law does not include an application process for a university, a community college district, or a group of community college districts to become an authorizer and does not require a periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

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4A. Registration process for school boards to affirm their interest in authorizing.

N/A

4B. Application process for other eligible authorizing entities (except a state charter schools commission).

4C. Authorizer submission of annual report.

4D. The ability for the state to conduct a review of an authorizer’s performance.

4E. The ability for the state to sanction an authorizer for poor performance, including suspending an authorizer’s authority to approve new schools.

4F. Periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

5. Adequate Authorizer Funding

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

While the law does not provide adequate and guaranteed funding to authorizers, the ASBCS receives a small annual appropriation to cover the expenses of the board, staffing, and external contracts for various oversight functions. State law allows the ASBCS to accept gifts or grants. Also, state department of education staff or other state employees complete some oversight functions.

State law allows authorizers to charge a new charter application processing fee to any applicant, which must fully cover the cost of application review and any needed technical assistance. It also allows authorizers to approve policies that allow a portion of the fee to be returned to the applicant whose charter is approved. The law allows the ASBCS to charge a processing fee to any charter school that amends its contract to participate in the Arizona Online Instruction program.

Arizona law provides that authorizers, as public entities, are held accountable for reporting their expenditures.

Except for the new charter application processing fee, Arizona law provides that authorizers may not charge any fees to schools they sponsor unless they have provided services for the school, and any such fees must represent full value of those services. On request, the value of such services must be demonstrated to the state department of education.

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5A. A uniform statewide formula that guarantees annual authorizer funding that is not subject to annual legislative appropriations.

5B. Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.

5C. Separate contract for any services purchased from an authorizer by a school.

5D. Prohibition on authorizers requiring schools to purchase services from them.

6. Transparent Charter Application, Review, and Decisionmaking Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Arizona law provides application elements for all charter schools.

The ASBCS also has policies that require information regarding proposed educational service provider usage in their application and policies for a replication application and review process. These policies apply to all schools approved by the two state boards, but not to schools approved by higher educational institutions.

Arizona law has general language regarding approval criteria. In addition, ASBCS regulations detail its approval criteria and. However, these detailed application processes do not apply to higher educational institution authorizers.

The law does not require authorizers to conduct a thorough evaluation of each application including an in-person interview and a public meeting. While not required by law, the ASBCS conducts interviews as part of its application review process.

Arizona law requires authorizers to make decisions in public meetings. For those applications denied, it requires authorizers to notify the applicant in writing of the reasons for the rejection and of suggestions for improving the application.

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6A. Application elements for all schools.

6B. Additional application elements specific to conversion schools.

6C. Additional application elements specific to using educational service providers.

6D. Additional application elements specific to replications.

6E. Requirement for thorough evaluation of each application, including an in-person interview and a public meeting.

6F. Application approval criteria.

6G. All charter approval or denial decisions made in a public meeting with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

7. Performance-Based Charter Contracts Required

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Arizona law provides that an authorizer of a charter school may contract with a public body, private person or private organization for the purpose of establishing a charter school.

Arizona law requires all such contracts to include elements from the application regarding the roles and responsibilities of charter schools, but does not require the inclusion of requirements regarding the role of the authorizers.

The law does not require contracts to include detailed performance expectations against which schools are to be judged. In implementing their oversight and administrative responsibilities, however, Arizona law requires authorizers to ground their actions in evidence of the charter holder’s performance in accordance with the performance framework adopted by the authorizer, which shall include the academic performance expectations of the charter school and the measurement of sufficient progress toward the academic performance expectations, the operational expectations of the charter school, including adherence to all applicable laws and obligations of the charter contract, and intervention and improvement policies.

Renewal requirement policies for those schools approved or currently overseen by the ASBCS include more detailed performance contracts, but these policies do not apply to other authorizers nor are they codified in Arizona law or the Arizona Administrative Code.

Arizona law provides that the initial charter term is 15 years, but requires authorizers to review charters at five-year intervals using a performance framework adopted by the authorizer.

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7A. With such contracts being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer.

7B. With such contracts defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.

7C. With such contracts defining academic, financial, and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged based on a performance framework.

7D. With such contracts providing an initial term of five operating years.

8. Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

The law requires charter schools to participate in the state’s accountability system, which includes annual state-produced school report cards, which are public.

Arizona law requires charter schools to have an annual financial audit.

Arizona law states that the authorizers have oversight and administrative responsibility for the schools they authorize. In implementing their oversight and administrative responsibilities, it requires them to ground their actions in evidence of the charter holder’s performance in accordance with the performance framework adopted by the authorizer, which shall include the academic performance expectations of the charter school and the measurement of sufficient progress toward the academic performance expectations, the operational expectations of the charter school, including adherence to all applicable laws and obligations of the charter contract, and intervention and improvement policies. It also requires authorizers to notify schools of concerns and allows authorizers to require a corrective action plan and disciplinary actions (such as withholding up to 10% of the charter’s monthly state aid), enter into a consent agreement regarding the resolution of the noncompliance, or begin revocation.

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8A. Required annual school performance reports.

8B. Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., generally accepted accounting principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).

8C. Authorizer authority to conduct oversight activities.

8D. Authorizer notification to its schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.

8E. Authorizer authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.

8F. Authorizer may not request duplicative data submission from its charter schools and may not use performance framework to create cumbersome reporting requirements.

9. Clear Processes for Renewal, Nonrenewal, and Revocation Decisions

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Per Arizona law, schools must apply for a renewal of their charter at least 15 months before its expiration. It also allows schools to apply for early renewal at least nine months before the charter school’s intended renewal consideration.

The law requires authorizers to make a renewal application available to schools facing renewal. ASBCS policies include detailed renewal application requirements for schools approved by them, including the ability to offer supplementary performance information and future plans. However, the law does not require authorizers to issue performance reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.

Arizona law provides that an authorizer may deny a request for renewal if, in its judgment, the charter holder has failed to do any of the following: meet or make sufficient progress toward the academic performance expectations set forth in the performance framework; meet the operational performance expectations set forth in the performance framework or any improvement plans; complete the obligations of the contract; or comply with the charter school statutes or any provision of law which the charter school is not exempt. ASBCS regulations note that renewals may be granted to schools based on assessment results, financial audit reports, enrollment reports, and complaint records.

The law allows an authorizer to revoke a charter at any time if the charter school breaches one or more provisions of its charter or if the authorizer determines that the charter holder has failed to do any of the following: meet or make sufficient progress toward the academic performance expectations set forth in the performance framework; meet the operational performance expectations set forth in the performance framework or any improvement plan; or comply with the charter school statutes or any provision of law which the charter school is not exempt.

The law also provides that in determining whether to renew or revoke a charter holder, the authorizer must consider making sufficient progress toward the academic performance expectations set forth in the authorizer’s performance framework as one of the most important factors.

Statute requires 20-year renewal intervals, with no ability to vary those terms.

Arizona law requires timely notification of potential non-renewal and revocation, including written reasons, with any such non-renewals and revocations occurring at a public hearing.

Neither statutes nor regulations detail school closure protocols, although revocation orders and surrender agreements issued by the ASBCS include such information for schools supervised by that board.

In reference to transfers, the law requires approval by the state superintendent of public instruction if a transfer is done after the beginning of a fiscal year. For other transfers, no state approval is required.

Overall, many of the pieces within this section have been implemented for schools supervised by ASBCS, but these policies are not required for all authorizers nor are they yet codified in Arizona law or Arizona Administrative Code.

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9A. Authorizer must issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.

9B. Schools seeking renewal must apply for it.

9C. Authorizers must issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.

9D. Ability to have a differentiated process for renewal of high-performing charter schools.

9E. Authorizers must use clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.

9F. Authorizers must ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract in accordance with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract.

9G. Requirement that authorizers close chronically low-performing charter schools unless exceptional circumstances exist.

9H. Authorizers must have the authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

9I. Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or nonrenewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.

9J. Authorizers must provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions (e.g., public hearing, submission of evidence).

9K. All charter renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions must be made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for nonrenewals and revocations in writing.

9L. Authorizers must have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.

9M. Any transfer of charter contracts from one authorizer to another are only allowed if they are approved by the state.

10. Transparency Regarding Educational Service Providers (ESPs) Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

ASBCS policies require those applying to this board to offer details regarding any ESP in their application, including: services to be provided; the ESP’s roles and responsibilities in relation to the applicant and the school’s management and governing board; performance expectations for the ESP; background information on the ESP including relevant performance data for other schools that the ESP has managed; and the actual service agreement as executed between the applicant and the ESP or a template version if not yet executed. However, these requirements aren’t applicable to higher educational authorizers.

Law requires all persons engaged in instructional work directly as a classroom, laboratory or other teacher or indirectly as a supervisory teacher, speech therapist or principal to have a valid fingerprint clearance card.

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10A. All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and nonprofit) are allowed to operate all or parts of schools.

10B. The charter application requires (1) performance data for all current and past schools operated by the ESP, and (2) explanation and evidence of the ESP’s capacity for successful growth while maintaining quality in existing schools.

10C. A performance contract is required between the independent charter school board and the ESP, with such contract approved by the school’s authorizer.

10D. School governing boards operate as entities completely independent of any ESP, individuals compensated by an ESP are prohibited from serving as voting members on such boards, and existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.

10E. Provides that charter school governing boards must have access to ESP records necessary to oversee the ESP contract.

10F. An ESP must annually provide information to its charter school governing board on how that ESP spends public funding it receives when the ESP is performing a public function under applicable state law.

10G. Requires that similar criminal history record checks and fingerprinting requirements applicable to other public schools shall also be mandatory for on-site employees of ESPs who regularly come into contact with students.

11. Fiscally and Legally Autonomous Schools with Independent Charter Public School Boards

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Arizona law provides that all charter schools are fiscally and legally autonomous schools under the control of a “charter holder.” That charter holder may be a for-profit entity, a non-profit entity, or a single individual and may operate one or more schools under their charter, with such schools having boards with varying levels of authority over the school.

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11A. Fiscally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to receive and disburse funds; incur debt; and pledge, assign, or encumber assets as collateral).

11B. Legally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to enter into contracts and leases, sue and be sued in their own names, and acquire real property).

11C. Independent school governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

12. Clear Student Enrollment and Lottery Procedures

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Arizona law requires charter schools to be open to all students in the state.

Arizona law contains anti-discrimination provisions regarding admissions.

Arizona law requires charter schools to give enrollment preferences to pupils returning to the school and to siblings of such students.

Arizona law allows charter schools to give preference to children, grandchildren, or legal wards of employees of the school, employees of the charter holder, members of the governing body of the school, or directors, officers, partners, or board members of the charter holder and to a pupil who attended another charter school or are the siblings of that pupil if the charter school previously attended by the pupil has the identical charter holder, board, and governing board membership as the enrolling charter school or is managed by the same educational management organization, charter management organization, or educational service provider as determined by the charter authorizer. However, this preference doesn’t address the children of a school’s founders and there is no limit on the percentage of a school’s total student population that may be admitted via these preferences.

Arizona law requires charter schools to use equitable selection processes such as a lottery if demand exceeds capacity.

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12A. Open enrollment to any student in the state.

12B. Anti-discrimination provisions regarding admissions.

12C. Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions and for prior-year students within charter schools.

12D. Lottery requirements.

13. Automatic Exemptions from Many State and District Laws and Regulations

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Except as provided in Arizona’s charter school law for things like health, safety, and academic accountability and as provided in a charter school’s charter contract, Arizona law provides that a charter school is automatically exempt from statutes and rules relating to district public schools, governing boards, and school districts.

Arizona law provides that teachers within charter schools do not need to meet state certification requirements, but employee qualifications must be specified in the charter application and resumes for all employees must be maintained by the school and made available upon request by parents or others, including information on educational and teaching backgrounds and experience in a particular academic content subject area.

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13A. Exemptions from all laws, except those covering health, safety, civil rights, student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information, and generally accepted accounting principles.

13B. Exemption from state teacher certification requirements.

14. Automatic Collective Bargaining Exemption

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Arizona law provides that all charter schools are their own legal entity and thus do not have to abide by any outside agreements.

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14A. Charter schools authorized by nonlocal board authorizers are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

14B. Charter schools authorized by local boards are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

15. Multischool Charter Contracts and/or Multicharter Contract Boards Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Arizona regulatory provisions regarding these arrangements require details for multi-site locations to be identified in the charter application. However, there is nothing in statute or regulation ensuring independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

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15A. An independent charter school board may oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

15B. An independent charter school board may hold multiple charter contracts with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

16. Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities Eligibility and Access

weight = 1 | Possible total = 4

Arizona law is silent about charter eligibility and access. Although charter schools are LEAs and thus have all the rights and responsibilities associated with district LEAs, silence on these provisions results in a level of uncertainty.

1

16A. Laws or regulations explicitly state that charter school students and employees are eligible to participate in all extracurricular and interscholastic activities available to noncharter public school students and employees.

16B. Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extracurricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at noncharter public schools.

17. Clear Provisions Regarding Special Education Responsibilities

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Arizona law provides that each charter school in the state is its own LEA and thus responsible for the special education needs of their enrolled students. The law details the flow of all funding, including special education funding, to charter schools. Arizona law allows charter schools to access the state’s Extraordinary Special Education Needs fund for low-incident, high cost services for charter schools in the same amount or in a manner similar to other LEAs.

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17A. Clarity regarding which entity is the local education agency (LEA) responsible for providing special education services.

17B. Clarity regarding the flow of federal, state, and local special education funds to the designated LEA.

17C. Clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools (in the same amount and/or in a manner similar to other LEAs).

17D. Clarity that charter schools have access to all regional and state services and supports available to traditional districts.

18. Equitable Operational Funding and Equal Access to All State and Federal Categorical Funding

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Arizona law calculates a base support level for each charter school and these funds flow directly to charter schools for those approved by non-district entities. For those approved by a local district board, it flows through that district.

Arizona law provides equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.

For charter schools authorized by local school boards, the law allows the district to provide transportation. For other charter schools, the law does not provide state transportation aid.

In a national study of charter school funding (University of Arkansas, Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands, 2014), Arizona charter schools were receiving on average $7,199 per pupil in public funds, while district public schools would have received $8,629 for those students. As a result, the state's charter schools were receiving $1,430 per pupil - or 16.8% - less than what the district public schools would have received for those students. This figure includes all sources of funding, and analysis reveals some continued significant inequities for both operational and capital funding (see component #19 for information on capital issues).

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18A. Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.

18B. Equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.

18C. Funding for transportation similar to school districts.

18D. Annual report offering district and charter public school funding comparisons and including annual recommendations to the legislature for any needed equity enhancements.

19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Arizona law provides charter schools with a per pupil allocation called “additional assistance” that may be used for facility construction as well as other operational needs. Statute provides that this amount is $1,707.77 per K-8 pupil and $1,990.38 per high school pupil. There is no provision, however, for this amount to be adjusted to reflect average facility funding received by district public schools or a construction price index.

Arizona law creates a $24 million achievement school district fund that will provide monies to public schools—including charters—that have a demonstrated wait list, plan to expand or replicate, and commit to mentoring low-performing schools.

Recent legislation also created a public school credit enhancement fund, which can be leveraged to provide more than $300 million of low-cost financing for quality schools, including charter schools.

Arizona law allows non-profit charter schools to apply for bond financing from Industrial Development Authorities.

Arizona law requires the state department of education, in conjunction with the state department of administration, to compile and publish an annual list of vacant and unused buildings or portions of buildings owned by the state or school districts that may be suitable for the operation of a charter school. However, nothing requires the owner to offer the right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value to charter schools.

Arizona law requires the School Facilities Board to annually submit a list of vacant and unused buildings to the Governor, Senate President, and House Speaker.

Arizona law prohibits school districts from excluding charter schools in bidding if a school district decides to sell or lease unused facilities. However, it specifically states that a school district shall attempt to obtain the highest possible value under current market conditions for the sale or lease of the vacant and unused building or the vacant and unused portion of a building.

Arizona law classifies charter schools the same as public schools that are operated by a school district for the purposes of assessments of zoning fees, site plan fees, and development fees, including any required hearings or applications. It also prevents any political subdivision of the state from enacting or interpreting any law, rule, or ordinance in a manner that conflicts with that designation.

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Facilities Funding

19A. A per-pupil facilities allowance that annually reflects actual average district capital costs.

19B. A state grant program for charter school facilities.

19C. Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to noncharter public schools.


Access to Public Space

19D. A requirement for districts to provide school district space or funding to charter schools if the majority of that school’s students reside in that district.

19E. Right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed, unused, or underused public school facility or property.


Access to Financing Tools

19F. A state loan program for charter school facilities.

19G. Equal access to tax-exempt bonding authorities or allowing charter schools to have their own bonding authority.

19H. Pledging the moral obligation of the state to help charter schools obtain more favorable bond financing terms.

19I. The creation and funding of a state charter school debt reserve fund.

19J. The inclusion of charter schools in school district bonding and mill levy requests.

19K. A mechanism to provide credit enhancement for charter school facilities.


Other

19L. Charter schools allowed to contract at or below fair market value with a school district, a college or university, or any other public or for-profit or nonprofit private entity for the use of facility for a school building.

19M. Certain entities allowed to provide space to charter schools within their facilities under their preexisting zoning and land use designations.

19N. Charter school facilities exempt from ad valorem taxes and other assessment fees not applicable to other public schools.

20. Access to Relevant Employee Retirement Systems

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Arizona law provides that charter schools have the option to participate in the Arizona state retirement system. In addition, charter schools have the option to participate in the state health and accident insurance coverage program.

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20A. Charter schools have access to relevant state retirement systems available to other public schools.

20B. Charter schools have the option to participate (i.e., not required).

21. Full-Time Virtual Charter School Provisions (if such schools allowed by state)

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Arizona law does not include any of the model law’s provisions for full-time virtual charter schools.

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21A. An authorizing structure whereby full-time virtual charter schools that serve students from more than one district may be approved only by an authorizer with statewide chartering jurisdiction and authority, full-time virtual charter schools that serve students from one school district may be authorized by that school district, and a cap is placed on the total amount of funding that an authorizer may withhold from a full-time virtual charter school.

21B. Legally permissible criteria and processes for enrollment based on the existence of supports needed for student success.

21C. Enrollment level provisions that establish maximum enrollment levels for each year of a charter contract, with any increases in enrollment from one year to the next based on whether the school meets its performance requirements.

21D. Accountability provisions that include virtual-specific goals regarding student enrollment, attendance, engagement, achievement, truancy, and attrition.

21E. Funding levels per student based on costs proposed and justified by the operators.

21F. Performance-based funding whereby full-time virtual charter schools are funded via a performance-based funding system based on meeting the accountability performance provisions.