Measuring Up

 



Virginia

TOTAL SCORE:
91 out of 240

Rank: 39 out of 44

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted: 1998
Estimated Number of Charter Schools in 2016-17: 9
Estimated Number of Charter School Students in 2016-17: 1,500

While Virginia’s law does not contain a cap on charter public school growth, it allows only local school district authorizers and provides little autonomy, insufficient accountability, and inequitable funding.

Virginia’s law needs improvement across the board. Potential starting points include expanding authorizing options; beefing up the law’s application, oversight, and renewal requirements; increasing operational autonomy; ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities; ensuring transparency regarding educational service providers; and strengthening accountability for full-time virtual charter schools.

Do Virginia's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Virginia's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Virginia 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

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

8

2A. New startups.

2B. Public school conversions.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Virginia law only allows local school boards to serve as authorizers (either independently or together in the case of regional charter schools). There is almost no authorizing activity in the state. Statute requires that all applications besides those initiated by one or more local school boards must first be reviewed by the state board of education to determine if the application meets approval criteria established by the state board. However, only local school boards are subsequently allowed to approve applications.

0

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

Virginia law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for authorizer and overall program accountability.

Virginia law requires authorizers to submit annual evaluations of any charter schools to the state board of education. It requires the state board to review the evaluations against any state board regulations and policies waived for the charter schools to determine the efficacy of such waivers and whether the charter schools accomplished established goals and objectives.

Virginia law also requires authorizers to submit annually to the state board a comparison of the performance of charter school students and students enrolled in the regular schools of such relevant school division and a report of the number of students enrolled in such charter schools at the end of the school year. It requires the state board to report annually its findings and evaluations of any charter schools established, as well as the number of charters denied, to the governor and the general assembly

3

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

Virginia law provides that a charter school may negotiate and contract with a school division, the governing body of a public institution of higher education, or any third party for the use of a school building and grounds, the operation and maintenance thereof, and the provision of any service, activity, or undertaking which the charter school is required to perform in order to carry out the educational program described in its charter contract. It also provides that any services for which a charter school contracts with a school division shall not exceed the division's costs to provide such services.

Virginia law also provides that funding and service agreements between local school boards and charter schools must not provide a financial incentive or constitute a financial disincentive to the establishment of a charter school, including any regional charter school.

4

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

Virginia law sets forth basic required elements for all charter applications, as well as additional requirements specific to conversions.

Virginia law requires the state board of education and all local school boards to post their application and review procedures on their websites and to establish a procedure for public notice and for receiving comments on any applications. However, it does not require them to include their approval criteria as part of the procedures that are posted nor to conduct an in-person interview as part of their evaluation of each application. Statute requires the state board of education to first review all applications to determine whether they meet the approval criteria established by the state board.

If a local school board denies an application, state law provides that it must provide the reasons in writing and post that information on its website. It also requires the local school board to submit documentation to the state board of education as to the rationale for the local school board’s denial of the charter school application.

8

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

Virginia law requires performance-based charter contracts being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the management committee of the charter school and the authorizer.

The law requires the contract to clearly sets forth the academic and operational performance expectations and measures by which the charter school will be judged and the administrative relationship between the local school board and charter school, including each party's rights and duties.

Virginia law provides that the contract between the charter school and its authorizer must reflect all agreements regarding the release of the charter school from school division policies. It provides that such contract between the charter school and its authorizer must reflect all requests for release of the charter school from state regulations.

Virginia law provides that a charter may be approved for a period not to exceed five school years.

12

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

Virginia law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for comprehensive charter school monitoring and data collection processes.

Virginia law requires authorizers to submit annual evaluations of any charter schools to the state board of education. It also requires authorizers to submit annually to the state board a comparison of the performance of charter school students and students enrolled in the regular schools of such relevant school division and a report of the number of students enrolled in such charter schools at the end of the school year.

4

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

Virginia law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for clear processes for renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions.

Virginia law requires charter schools seeking renewal to apply for it. The law provides the following renewal application requirements: a report on the progress of the charter school in achieving the goals, objectives, program and performance standards for students, and such other conditions and terms as its authorizer may require upon granting initial approval of the charter application; and a financial statement, on forms prescribed by the state board, that discloses the costs of administration, instruction, and other spending categories for the charter school and that has been concisely and clearly written to enable its authorizer and the public to compare such costs to those of other schools or comparable organizations.

Virginia law provides that authorizers can revoke a charter contract if they determine that a school violates conditions, standards or procedures established in the charter application, fails to make reasonable progress towards academic performance standards, fails to meet sufficient fiscal management standards, or violates applicable law.

Virginia law provides that a charter may be renewed for a period not to exceed five school years.

If a local school board revokes or fails to renew a charter contract, state law provides that it must provide the reasons in writing and post that information on its website. It also requires the local school board to submit documentation to the state board of education as to the rationale for the local school board’s denial or revocation of the charter school application. It does not require these decisions be made in a public meeting, though.

4

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

Virginia law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for educational service providers.

Virginia law allows a charter school to contract with any third party for the provision of any service activity or undertaking which the school is required to perform in order to carry out the educational program described in its charter.

The law provides that the charter application must provide disclosure of any ownership or financial interest in the charter school, by the charter applicant and the governing body, administrators, and other personnel of the proposed charter school, and a requirement that the successful applicant and the governing body, administrators, and other personnel of the charter school shall have a continuing duty to disclose such interests during the term of any charter.

2

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

Virginia law states that a charter school must be run by a management committee (comprised of parents, teachers, and representatives of community sponsors) that administers and manages the school in a manner agreed upon by the applicant and the local school board. Virginia law also requires charter schools to enter into charter contracts with their authorizer and allows charter schools to enter into contracts for services.

According to the law, however, charter school personnel are considered employees of the local school board granting the charter and are granted the same employment benefits in accordance with the district’s personnel policies (unless the local school board allows charter school personnel to be employees of the charter school governing board), and the charter school remains a part of the school district LEA that authorized it.

6

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

According to the law, no charter school shall discriminate against any individual on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, gender, national origin, religion, ancestry, or need for special education services or any other unlawful basis, and each charter school shall be subject to any court- ordered desegregation plan in effect for the school division. The law also provides that no charter school shall discriminate against any student on the basis of limited proficiency in English, and each charter school shall provide students who have limited proficiency in English with appropriate services designed to teach such students English and the general curriculum, consistent with federal civil rights laws.

Virginia law requires that enrollment in a charter school is to be conducted via a lottery process on a space available basis.

Virginia law requires a conversion charter school to give students who attend the school and the siblings of such students the opportunity to enroll in advance of the lottery process.

4

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

Instead of providing automatic exemptions from most state and district laws and regulations, Virginia law allows charter schools to ask the district for waivers of district policies and to have the district ask the state board of education for waivers from state regulations. It also provides that local school boards may allow charter school personnel to be employees of the local school board or the charter school governing board.

Virginia law requires all charter school teachers to be certified.

3

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

According to the law, charter school personnel are considered employees of the local school board granting the charter and are granted the same employment benefits in accordance with the district’s personnel policies (unless the local school board allows charter school personnel to be employees of the charter school governing board).

3

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

N/A

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

Virginia law is silent regarding these arrangements.

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

Virginia 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

Virginia law provides that the proportionate share of state and federal resources allocated for students with disabilities and school personnel assigned to special education programs be directed to charter schools enrolling such students.

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

Virginia law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for equitable operational and categorical funding. There is no evidence of the amount of funds charter schools receive versus districts.

Virginia law allows a local school board to establish by contract an agreement stating the conditions for funding the charter school. The law also provides that the funding shall be commensurate with the average school-based costs of educating the students in the existing schools in the district unless the cost of operating the charter school is less than that average school-based cost.

Virginia law requires the proportionate share of moneys allocated under other federal or state categorical aid programs be directed to charter schools serving students eligible for such aid, but does not provide clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.

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

Virginia law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

Virginia law allows charter schools to access financing through the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority.

Virginia law provides that, as negotiated by contract, the local school board or the relevant school boards, in the case of regional charter schools, may allow a charter school to use vacant or unused properties or real estate owned by the school board. In no event shall a charter school be required to pay rent for space that is deemed available, as negotiated by contract, in school division facilities. All other costs for the operation and maintenance of the facilities used by the charter school shall be subject to negotiation between the charter school and the school division or, in the case of a regional charter school, between the regional charter school and the relevant school divisions.

Virginia law provides that a charter school may negotiate and contract with a school division, the governing body of a public institution of higher education, or any third party for the use of a school building and grounds, the operation and maintenance thereof, and the provision of any service, activity, or undertaking which the charter school is required to perform in order to carry out the educational program described in its charter. Any services for which a charter school contracts with a school division shall not exceed the division's costs to provide such services.

4


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

Virginia law requires participation in the relevant employee retirement systems.

4

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

Virginia law does not allow full-time virtual charter schools.

N/A

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.

N/A

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

N/A

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.

N/A

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

N/A

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

N/A

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.

N/A