Measuring Up to the Model



District of Columbia

TOTAL SCORE:
153 out of 228

Rank: 10 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  1996
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  107 
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  36,823

D.C. did not pass any legislation in 2013 that affected its score and ranking.

D.C.’s score increased from 134 points in 2013 to 153 points this year. The score changed because of adjustments in our methodology for Component #3 (Multiple Authorizers Available) and Component #4 (Authorizer and Overall Program Accountability System Required) and because of further clarification about the specific policies for Component #7 (Performance-Based Charter Contracts Required), Component #8 Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes), and Component #10 (Educational Service Providers Allowed).  Its ranking went from #17 to #10.

The biggest area for potential improvement is ensuring equitable operational funding for charter schools.

Do District of Columbia's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

District of Columbia's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

The law limits charter school growth to 10 new charter schools per authorizer each year. In addition, in any year where an authorizer does not approve 10 new petitions by April 1, another authorizer may grant additional charters before June 1, provided that the total number of new charters approved by all authorizers in any calendar year does not exceed 20.

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1A. No limits are placed on the number of public charter schools or students (and no geographic limits).

1B. If caps exist, adequate room for growth.

2. A Variety of Public Charter Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

The law allows new-starts, public school conversions, and virtual schools.

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2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

The law established two authorizers, the DC Board of Education (BOE) and the DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB). However, the BOE is now defunct, and in 2007 the PCSB assumed oversight of all the charter schools formerly overseen by the BOE. The law also permits the Council of the District of Columbia to designate another entity as an authorizer, which has not occurred. There are 60 charters operating 107 schools in DC.

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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

DC has only one active authorizer, the DC Public Charter School Board, whose authority is established in the charter school law.

The law requires the authorizer to submit an annual report to the Mayor, the DC Council, the DC Board of Education, the U.S. Secretary of Education, the appropriate congressional committees, and the Consensus Commission. It requires the report to include data on the performance and compliance of the authorizer’s charter schools, as well as describe authorizing activities and actions in the past year.

The law requires the authorizer to be evaluated biennially by the Comptroller General of the United States (through the Government Accountability Office) for quality procedures, oversight, and best practices.

The ability of the DC Public Charter School Board to continue authorizing can be removed by Congress (the entity that gave them that authority).

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4A. At least a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state.

N/A

4B. Application process for other eligible authorizing entities.

N/A

4C. Authorizer submission of annual report, which summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio.

4D. A regular review process by authorizer oversight body.

4E. Authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools.

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

5. Adequate Authorizer Funding

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

The law entitles the authorizer to charge each charter school up to one-half of one percent (.5%) of its annual school budget as an oversight fee. The DC Public Charter School Board also receives an annual local appropriation on top of its guaranteed administrative percentage.

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5A. Adequate funding from authorizing fees (or other sources).

5B. Guaranteed funding from authorizing fees (or from sources not subject to annual legislative appropriations).

5C. Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.

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

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

6. Transparent Charter Application, Review, and Decisionmaking Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

The law sets forth essential requirements concerning the content of all charter applications and includes specific requirements for conversion petitions.

The law requires a public hearing on all charter applications but not an in-person interview.

The law requires that all charter approval or denial decisions be made in a public meeting and that authorizers state reasons for any charter denial in writing.

The law does not include additional application elements specific to virtual schools, educational service providers, and replications. The law does not require authorizers to issue request for proposals that include application requirements and approval criteria.

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6A. Application elements for all schools.

6B. Additional application elements specific to conversion schools.

6C. Additional application elements specific to virtual schools.

6D. Additional application elements specific when using educational service providers.

6E. Additional application elements specific to replications.

6F. Authorizer-issued request for proposals (including application requirements and approval criteria).

6G. Thorough evaluation of each application including an in-person interview and a public meeting.

6H. 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

The law requires a charter agreement that is separate from the charter application.

The law requires that charter terms must be granted for 15 years, with a high-stakes review every five years to determine whether a charter should be revoked for reasons stated in the law.

The law does not require that the charter agreement define the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer, does not require that the charter agreement define academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged based on a performance framework, and does not require that the charter agreement include provisions addressing the unique environments of virtual schools.

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

7B. Defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.

7C. Defining academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged, based on a performance framework that includes measures and metrics for, at a minimum, student academic proficiency and growth, achievement gaps, attendance, recurrent enrollment, postsecondary readiness (high schools), financial performance, and board stewardship (including compliance).

7D. Providing an initial term of five operating years (or a longer term with periodic high-stakes reviews.

7E. Including requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools, if applicable.

8. Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

The law requires each charter school to submit to the authorizer an annual report on its financial, administrative, and programmatic operations, and make the report available to the public upon request. It requires the annual report to include a report on the school’s charter fulfillment and student performance on any district-wide assessments and data on enrollment, attendance, parent involvement, and graduation and college admission (if applicable). The law also requires the report to include a financial statement audited by an independent certified public accountant or accounting firm from a list approved by a committee representing the authorizer and the DC Chief Financial Officer, in accordance with federal government auditing standards. The law requires charter schools to adhere to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

The law explicitly gives the authorizer the authority and responsibility to oversee and monitor charter school performance and compliance. The law does not require the authorizer to notify schools of perceived problems or provide opportunity to remedy such problems, nor does it explicitly empower the authorizer to take corrective actions short of revocation. In practice, however, the PCSB provides notification to their schools of perceived problems and gives them opportunities to remedy such problems.

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8A. The collection and analysis of student outcome data at least annually by authorizers (consistent with performance framework outlined in the contract).

8B. Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).

8C. Authorizer authority to conduct or require oversight activities.

8D. Annual school performance reports which are made public.

8E. Authorizer notification to their schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.

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

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

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

The law requires charter schools seeking renewal to file a renewal application 120-365 days before the expiration of the charter. The law states generally what charter school renewal applications must contain and mandates a renewal application timeframe.

The law sets forth general grounds for non-renewal and revocation, distinguishing between the two. The law directs the authorizer to approve a duly filed renewal application unless the authorizer determines that the school has met one of the stated criteria for non-renewal, in which case the authorizer shall not renew the charter.

The law requires renewed charter terms to be for 15 years, but subjects them to the requirement of a high-stakes review every five years. It does not provide authorizers with the authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

The law entitles charter schools to an informal hearing, upon request, for any pending renewal or revocation decision. In the case of a proposed revocation, the law requires the authorizer to provide written notice to the charter school, including an opportunity for the school to request an informal hearing.

The law requires the authorizer to make all renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions in a public meeting and state in writing reasons for non-renewal or revocation. The law makes non-renewal and revocation decisions subject to judicial review.

In the event of a charter closure, the law requires the authorizer to develop, in consultation with a charter school’s governing board, a plan for the orderly disposition of school assets. The law also requires the authorizer to arrange for the transfer and storage of necessary student records.

The law does not require authorizers to issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.

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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. Clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.

9E. 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).

9F. Authorizer authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

9G. Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or non-renewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.

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

9I. All charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing.

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

10. Educational Service Providers (ESPs) Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

The law permits educational service providers to operate charter schools under contract with a charter school board and provides that school governing boards operate as entities completely independent of any educational service provider.
However, there are no statutory provisions guiding any charter application requirements for educational service providers, performance contracts between the school and service provider, authorizer approval of contracts, and conflicts of interest.

While the law doesn’t contain such items, the PCSB’s charter application requires performance data for all current and past schools operated by the ESP, including documentation of academic achievement and (if applicable) school management success and explanation and evidence of the ESP’s capacity for successful growth while maintaining quality in existing schools, the PCSB reviews any contract between a school and a provider over $25,000, and the PCSB’s application requires that existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained.

4

10A. All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and non-profit) explicitly 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, including documentation of academic achievement and (if applicable) school management success; 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 public charter school board and the ESP, setting forth material terms including but not limited to: performance evaluation measures; methods of contract oversight and enforcement by the charter school board; compensation structure and all fees to be paid to the ESP; and conditions for contract renewal and termination.

10D. The material terms of the ESP performance contract must be approved by the authorizer prior to charter approval.

10E. School governing boards operating as entities completely independent of any educational service provider (e.g., must retain independent oversight authority of their charter schools, and cannot give away their authority via contract).

10F. Existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.

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

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

The law requires charter schools to be established as independent LEAs, except that for special education purposes, they may elect to be part of the district LEA. The law explicitly provides for charter school fiscal and legal autonomy.

The law provides for charter school governing board independence. In addition to requiring each charter school to be established as a nonprofit corporation, the law specifies that charter schools are not part of the DC government, while it establishes the authorizer as part of the DC government.

12

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. School governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

12. Clear Student Recruitment, Enrollment, and Lottery Procedures

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

The law requires charter schools to be open to any student in DC.

If a charter school is oversubscribed, the law requires them to select its students by random lottery.

The law requires enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students in conversions, prior year students within chartered schools, and siblings of enrolled students.

The law allows a charter school to give preference to children of the school’s founders, so long as the enrollment of founders’ children is limited to 10% of total enrollment or 20 students, whichever is less.

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

12B. Lottery requirements.

12C. Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions, prior year students within chartered schools, siblings of enrolled students enrolled at a charter school.

12D. Optional enrollment preference for children of a school’s founders, governing board members, and full-time employees, not exceeding 10% of the school’s total student population.

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

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

The law provides that charter schools are automatically exempt from DC statutes, rules, regulations, and policies governing public schools, except as provided in the charter school law or the school’s charter. In spite of this exemption, there are continuous attempts to apply new laws to charters.

The law provides that charter school teachers are not required to be certified.

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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

The law exempts charter schools from district collective bargaining agreements.

12

14A. Charter schools authorized by non-local board authorizers are exempt from participation in any outside 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

The law is silent regarding these arrangements. In practice, the PCSB allows charter schools to operate multiple campuses and requires independent academic accountability but not independent financial accountability for each campus.

2

15A. Oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

15B. 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

The District of Columbia government provides charter schools eligibility to participate in the State Athletic Association.

3

16A. Laws or regulations explicitly state that charter school students and employees are eligible to participate in all interscholastic leagues, competitions, awards, scholarships, and recognition programs available to non-charter public school students and employees.

16B. Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extra-curricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at non-charter public schools for a fee by a mutual agreement.

17. Clear Identification of Special Education Responsibilities

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

The law requires a charter school to elect at the time of application whether it will be an independent LEA or part of the DC school district LEA for special education purposes.

The law provides that charter schools that are part of the district LEA for special education purposes receive evaluation services from the school district, and that independent LEA charters do not. It also provides that each charter school is responsible for ensuring the provision of special education services whether or not it has elected to be an LEA for special education purposes.

The law does not provide clarity regarding funding for low-incidence, high-cost services for charter schools in the same amount or in a manner similar to the district LEA.

4

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

17B. 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).

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

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

The law requires that similarly situated charter school students and district students be funded uniformly under the uniform per-pupil funding formula. This provision applies only to operating funding from the District’s general fund. However, the school district receives significant additional operating funds through other city and federal agencies that charter schools cannot access.

The law entitles charter schools to their share of entitlement funding pursuant to formula.

The law provides that charter school students are eligible for reduced fares on DC public transportation to the same extent as district students. It specifies that eligible special education students are entitled to state-funded special education transportation (In DC, only special education students receive transportation from the school district).

A national study of charter school funding (Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists, 2010) found that DC charter schools were receiving $17,525 per pupil while the school district received $29,808 per pupil --- a difference of $12,283 or 41.2 percent. This comparison includes all sources of funding. The study attributes the funding disparity primarily to a) facilities funding inequity, and b) charters’ lack of access to substantial federal and city funding that benefits the school district. (See component #19 for information on capital funding.)

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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.

19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

The law provides a per-pupil facilities aid program. The Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Support Act of 2012 set the public charter schools facilities allowance at $2,940 per student and the D.C. Public Schools capital budget at $7,992 per student.

Congress provides the City Build Charter School Initiative, which promotes community revitalization with a particular emphasis on strengthening public charter schools. Most of the grants from this program have been allocated for facilities and expansion projects. The FY 2009 District of Columbia Appropriations Act included $3.25 million for the program.

The law allows charter schools to access tax-exempt bonds through DC’s Revenue Bond Program.

The law provides the Public Charter School Credit Enhancement Fund, which provides credit enhancement for the purchase, construction, and/or renovation of facilities for charter schools. The program offers guarantees or collateral pledges of up to $3 million for two to five years.

The law provides the Direct Loan Fund for Charter School Improvement, which provides flexible loan capital for the construction, purchase, renovation, and maintenance of charter school facilities. Loans are capped at $2 million per school. In FY 2009, $4.5 million in federal appropriations was earmarked for this initiative.

The law requires the mayor and the DC government to give charter schools a right of first offer for the purchase, lease, transfer, or use of surplus public facilities or properties.

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

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

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

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

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

19F. Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to non-charter public schools.

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

19H. Prohibition of facility-related requirements stricter than those applied to traditional public schools.

20. Access to Relevant Employee Retirement Systems

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

The law provides that employees transferring from a local district school to a charter school may elect to stay in the DC retirement system. Otherwise, charter employees do not have access to the system.

2

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).