Measuring Up

 



Georgia

TOTAL SCORE:
145 out of 240

Rank: 24 out of 44

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted: 1994
Estimated Number of Charter Schools in 2016-17: 83
Estimated Number of Charter School Students in 2016-17: 84,400

Georgia’s law does not cap charter public school growth, provides multiple authorizers to charter school applicants, and provides adequate autonomy and accountability. However, it does not provide equitable funding to charter schools.

Potential areas for improvement include ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities, ensuring transparency regarding educational service providers, allowing multischool charter contracts and/or multicharter contract boards, and strengthening accountability for full-time virtual charter schools.

Do Georgia's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Georgia's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

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

12

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

Georgia 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

Georgia law allows local school boards, a state charter school commission, and the state board of education to serve as authorizers. It requires those seeking a state charter school with a state-wide attendance area to apply directly to the commission and to provide a copy of their application as information only to the local district in which the school will be located. For those seeking a state charter school with a defined attendance area, the law requires the application to be submitted concurrently to the local board(s) impacted by the proposal and the commission. The law provides that the commission cannot consider the application until it is denied at the local level or no action is taken on it at the local level within 60 days of submission. The law requires the state board of education to review and allows it to overrule the approval or renewal of a state charter school by the state charter school commission within 90 days of such decision.

Georgia law also allows applicants to appeal denials by local school boards to the state board of education, who serves as the authorizer if it overturns the local school board’s denial. Such schools are called “state-chartered special schools.”

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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

Georgia law and guidelines requires authorizers to submit an annual report to the state board of education regarding the academic performance and fiscal responsibility of all state charter schools.

Georgia guidelines require the state department of education to annually assign authorizers to one of four categories (first time authorizer, exemplary authorizer, adequate authorizer, and authorizer needs improvement).

While the law does not require the legislature and governor to regularly review the performance of the state board of education and the state charter school commission as authorizers, they can do so at any time. In addition, the legislature and governor can remove the ability of the state board of education and the state charter school commission to continue authorizing (the entities that gave them that authority).

Georgia law requires the state board of education to submit an annual report to the General Assembly on the status of the charter school program.

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

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

N/A

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

Georgia law establishes that authorizers may withhold up to 3% of state and local charter school funding for administrative costs.

State rule provides that all authorizers that withhold funds from charter schools have to annually report on the use of such funds to the state department of education.

Georgia law allows for state authorized charter schools to contract with local boards of education for administrative or transportation services. It does not contain a similar provision pertaining to district-authorized charter schools or a similar provision allowing such contracting with non-district authorizers.

Georgia guidelines provide that each authorizer that provides oversight of a charter school shall include in its annual report a written confirmation that it has not in the preceding year required a commercial contract with any charter school board under its oversight.

6

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

Georgia law, regulations, and guidance establish a detailed process for seeking a charter and for decision-making by authorizers. They provide explicit application elements for all schools and additional application elements specific to conversion schools and educational service providers.

State rule requires an interview of applicants. While a public meeting to review applications is common practice, it is not required by law or rule.

Consistent with Georgia law relating to public entities, charter approvals or denials must be made at a public meeting. The law requires authorizers to provide a written statement of any denial to the petitioner.

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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

Georgia law defines the charter as a performance-based contract between the authorizer and a Georgia nonprofit charter school governing board.

The law requires the petition to define the roles, powers, and responsibilities of schools but not authorizers. These items are incorporated into the contract.

The law requires the petition to generally define academic and operational performance expectations, which are incorporated into the contract.

Under Georgia law, charters are issued for a minimum of five years (unless applicants seek a shorter term) and may not exceed 10 years.

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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 complete an annual performance report and provide it to the local board, state department of education, and parents and guardians of students.

Georgia law requires that charter schools define and follow a prudent financial plan, and that they report annually on fiscal performance, consistent with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

Georgia law requires authorizers to ensure that charter school performance goals are being met and the school is complying with applicable accountability provisions and fiscal plans.

Georgia law provides that the state department of education may notify charter schools of perceived problems and give them opportunities to remedy such problems and provides the state department of education with the authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of 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

Under Georgia law, charter schools seeking renewal must submit a petition to their authorizer, comply with many of the petition requirements applicable to those seeking an initial charter, and provide an executive summary giving an overview of the school’s performance from the school’s perspective and information demonstrating its success. The law also requires renewal applications to include a copy of the school’s original petition with all proposed changes highlighted. The law requires authorizers to base their renewal decisions on this record.

Georgia regulation provides that authorizers may develop policies to provide for an expedited review process for high quality charter school renewal, expansion, and replication.

Georgia law provides that the state board of education may terminate a charter if a majority of the parents or guardians of students enrolled at or a majority of the faculty and instructional staff employed at the charter school vote by a majority vote to request the termination of its charter at a public meeting called with two weeks' advance notice and for the purpose of deciding whether to request the state board to declare the charter null and void.

Georgia law provides that the state board of education may also terminate a charter if, after providing reasonable notice to the charter school and an opportunity for a hearing, the state board finds a failure to comply with any recommendation or direction of the state board with respect to a certain section of state law, a failure to adhere to any material term of the charter, including but not limited to the performance goals set forth in the charter, a failure to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management, a violation of applicable federal, state, or local laws or court orders, the existence of competent substantial evidence that the continued operation of the charter school would be contrary to the best interests of the students or the community, or a failure to comply with any provision described in state law.

Georgia law provides that the state board of education may also terminate a charter upon the written request of a local board for termination of a charter for a local charter school located within its school system if, prior to making such request, the local board provided reasonable notice to the charter school and an opportunity for a hearing, and determined the existence of any of the grounds described in state law.

Georgia law requires authorizers to base their renewal decisions on evidence presented in the renewal application and provides authorizers with discretion in the length of the renewal term offered (not to exceed 10 years).

Consistent with Georgia law relating to public entities, charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions must be made at a public meeting. The law requires authorizers to state reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing.

Georgia law provides a dissolution process that ensures timely notification of parents regarding closure and alternate school options, the handling of school assets and unencumbered funds.

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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

Georgia law explicitly allows charter schools to contract with educational services providers.

Within the application, it requires applicants to submit any intended contracts for the provision of educational management services and a disclosure of any potential conflicts of interest.

According to regulation, for start-up charter schools, teachers and other instructional staff and faculty must be employees of the Governing Board and may not be employed by an Educational Service Provider or other entity affiliated with an Educational Service Provider. The individual with the highest authority in school administration may be employed by an Educational Service Provider only if the Governing Board retains the authority to select and dismiss that individual from service at the charter school. For start-up and conversion charter schools, non-instructional staff, such as the Chief Financial Officer, business manager, bookkeeper, or maintenance personnel, may be employed by entities other than the Governing Board; however, the Governing Board shall remain responsible and accountable for all operations, compliance, and performance of any and all selected contractors.

The law does not explicitly prohibit ESP employees from serving on charter governing boards and does not explicitly require potential conflicts to be outlined. In practice, the Commission petition requires applicants to disclose conflicts, but the law does not require it.

Regulation requires a charter school’s procedures to ensure compliance with the requirement that the school shall not allow any faculty, staff, or governing board member contact with students without having annual documentation of a successful background check as well as the charter school’s policies and procedures that establish the requirement that faculty, staff, and governing board members must immediately disclose to the school the occurrence of any arrests or other such occurrences which would have resulted in an unsuccessful background check if they had occurred prior to the background check. Each school employee must have a clearance certificate from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC).

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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

Georgia rule provides that the nonprofit governing board of a charter school shall have authority to make, but is not limited to, personnel decisions, including selection of the principal or school leader; financial decisions and resource allocation decisions, including establishing the number and type of personnel, curriculum costs, supply costs, equipment costs and maintenance and operations costs; selection of a curriculum and accompanying instructional materials; establishment and monitoring of the achievement of school improvement goals, including approval of the school improvement plan and oversight of its implementation; and operations that are consistent with school improvement goals. The local board shall only override decisions of a conversion charter school’s governing board in those areas where the local board has constitutional authority and has a reasonable belief that a decision will be substantially detrimental to students and is not in the public interest.

The law provides that state-authorized charter schools have their autonomy grounded in the state constitution provision for “special schools” and they act as their own LEAs and fiscal agents.

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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

Georgia law provides that charter schools must be open to any student residing in the district or covered in an inter-district agreement.

Georgia law requires charter schools to admit students via a random selection process when the number of applications exceeds the capacity of a program, class, grade level, or building.

Georgia law prohibits charter schools from discriminating on any basis that would be illegal if used by a school system.

Georgia law provides that a district-authorized start-up charter school may give enrollment preference to a sibling of a student enrolled in the school (but it is not required), a sibling of a student enrolled in another local school designated in the charter (but it is not required), a student whose parent or guardian is a member of the governing board of the charter school or is a full-time teacher, professional, or other employee at the charter school (there is no provision that limits the total percentage of such students), students matriculating from a local school designated in the charter, and a sibling of a nonresident student currently enrolled in the charter school (but it is not required).

Georgia law provides that a district-authorized conversion charter school may give enrollment preference to a sibling of a student enrolled in the school or in any school in a high school cluster (but it is not required), a student whose parent or guardian is a member of the governing board of the charter school or is a full-time teacher, professional, or other employee at the charter school, students who were enrolled in the local school prior to its becoming a charter school (there is no provision that limits the total percentage of such students), students who reside in the charter attendance zone specified in the charter, and a sibling of a nonresident student currently enrolled in the charter school (but it is not required).

Georgia law provides that a state chartered special school may give enrollment preference to a sibling of a student enrolled in the state chartered special school, a sibling of a student enrolled in another local school designated in the charter, a student whose parent or guardian is a member of the governing board of the state chartered special school or is a full-time teacher, professional, or other employee at the state chartered special school, students matriculating from a local school designated in the charter, and children who matriculate from a pre-kindergarten program which is associated with the state chartered special school, including but not limited to, programs which share common facilities or campuses with the school or programs which have established a partnership or cooperative efforts with the school. There is no provision that limits the total percentage of such students.

Georgia law provides that charter schools may provide educationally disadvantaged students an increased chance of admission through a weighted lottery if permitted by the school’s charter.

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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

Georgia law provides that charter schools can request blanket waivers from state and local rules and regulations in exchange for accountability promises or negotiate individualized waivers. It allows charter schools to seek waivers from teacher certification requirements as part of overall waivers.

6

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

Georgia law provides that charter schools are exempt from participation in any district personnel policies.

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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

Georgia law is silent regarding these arrangements, although some multi-school charter contracts and/or multi-charter contract boards have been established in practice.

2

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

Georgia law is silent about charter eligibility and access.

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

For district-authorized schools, Georgia law provides that the district is the LEA and retains responsibility for providing special education services. For state-authorized schools, the law provides that the school is the LEA and retains the responsibility for providing special education services.

2

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

Georgia law provides that local and state boards must treat a start-up charter school no less favorably than other local schools with regard to funds for instruction, school administration, transportation, food services and, where feasible, building programs.

Under Georgia law, district-authorized charter schools must be included in state funding formula quality basic education (QBE) earnings, applicable QBE grants, non-QBE state grants, and applicable federal grants to the local school system.

The law provides that conversion charter schools must be treated no less favorably and the local and state boards must treat start-up charters no less favorably than other local schools with respect to funds for instruction, school administration, transportation, food services, and, where feasible, building programs.

In a national study of charter school funding (University of Arkansas, Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands, 2014), Georgia charter schools were receiving on average $7,713 per pupil in public funds, while district public schools would have received $11,917 for those students. As a result, the state's charter schools were receiving $4,204 per pupil – or 35.3% - less than what the district public schools would have received for those students. This figure includes all sources of funding, and analysis reveals some significant inequities for both operational and capital funding (see component #19 for information on capital issues).

0

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

Georgia law provides a per-pupil, needs-based capital-funding program that is distributed through a competitive grant process. The state appropriated roughly $1.6 million to the program for the 2013-14 school year.

Georgia law provides state charter schools and state chartered special schools with an amount equal to the state-wide average total capital revenue per full-time equivalent, as determined by the state department of education. Statute notes that such funding is subject to the appropriations by the General Assembly, but that such schools shall be treated consistently with all other public schools in the state, pursuant to the respective statutory funding formulas and grants. Currently, the state is providing approximately $1,100 per pupil for this item.

Georgia law provides charter schools with access to tax-exempt debt through county development authorities.

Georgia law requires each local board of education to make available any vacant or otherwise unused facility to locally-authorized charters at no lease cost, with any additional terms of use to be negotiated by the parties.

Statute also now indicates that local charter schools which petition to be authorized by the commission must be allowed to continue the use of all facilities, equipment, and other assets it used prior to the expiration or rescission of its charter with a local board of education; however, the local school board can begin to charge or continue to charge a reasonable fee for use of the facilities if the school switches to the commission.

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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

Georgia law provides that charter teachers get equal access to the state retirement system. A state attorney general opinion held that charter school teachers are required to participate in the state retirement system.

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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

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

0

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.