Measuring Up

 



Virginia

TOTAL SCORE:
72 out of 228

Rank: 39 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  1998 Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  6 Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  725 Virginia enacted a law in 2013 that would permit local school boards to allow charter school personnel to be employees of the charter school governing board.  If a local school board made such an allowance, a charter school would be free to create its own personnel policies instead of being beholden to the district’s policies.  While this change is a step in the right direction, Virginia should go even further and automatically exempt schools from these and other state and district laws and regulations. Virginia’s score increased from 69 points in 2013 to 72 points this year.  The score changed for Component #14 (Automatic Collective Bargaining Exemption) because of the already mentioned change in state policy.  Its ranking stayed at #39. Virginia’s law needs improvement across the board.  Potential starting points include expanding authorizing options, beefing up the law in relation to the model law’s four quality control components (Components #6 through #9), increasing operational autonomy, and ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

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

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

N/A

2. A Variety of Public Charter Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Virginia law allows new start-ups and public school conversions, but not virtual schools.

4

2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

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), and 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, but only local school boards are subsequently allowed to approve applications.

Under limited circumstances, the state, via the Opportunity Educational Institution Board, may authorize the restructuring of a low-performing traditional public school as a public charter school.

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 lacks most of the model law’s provisions for authorizer and overall program accountability. Virginia law requires authorizers to submit annual evaluations of any public 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 public charter schools to determine the efficacy of such waivers and whether the public 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 public 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 public charter schools at the end of the school year. It requires the state board to report annually its findings and evaluations of any public charter schools established, as well as the number of charters denied, to the governor and the general assembly.

However, it does not require at least a registration process for school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state, a regular review process by authorizer oversight body, and an authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools.

3

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

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

Virginia law provides that a public 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 public 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 public 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 public charter schools must not provide a financial incentive or constitute a financial disincentive to the establishment of a public charter school, including any regional public charter school.

4

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

Virginia law sets forth basic required elements for all charter applications, as well as additional requirements specific to conversions. However, it does not contain elements specific to virtual schools, educational service providers, or replications.

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. However, it does not require all charter approval or denial decisions to be made in a public meeting.

8

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

Virginia law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for performance-based charter contracts. Instead of requiring that a charter contract be created as a separate document from the application, Virginia law provides that an approved charter application constitutes an agreement and the application’s terms are the terms of a contract between a public charter school and its authorizer.

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

4

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

Virginia law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for comprehensive charter school monitoring and data collection processes. However, Virginia law requires authorizers to submit annual evaluations of any public 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 public 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 public charter schools at the end of the school year.

4

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

Virginia law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for clear processes for renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions.

However, Virginia law does require charter schools seeking renewal to apply for it. The law provides the following renewal application requirements: (1) A report on the progress of the public 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 (2) A financial statement, on forms prescribed by the state board, that discloses the costs of administration, instruction, and other spending categories for the public 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.

If a local school board revokes or fails to renew a charter contracts, 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.

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

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. 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

Virginia law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for educational service providers. However, 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.

2

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

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

12. Clear Student Recruitment, Enrollment, and Lottery Procedures

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Virginia law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for clear student recruitment, enrollment, and lottery procedures. However, Virginia law requires that enrollment in a public charter school is to be conducted via a lottery process on a space available basis.

2

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

Instead of providing automatic exemptions for 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 non-local board authorizers are exempt from participation in any outside 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. 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

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 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

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 public charter schools enrolling such students, but does not provide clear identification of which entity is the LEA responsible for providing special education services nor regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools. In practice, the authorizing school district is the LEA.

2

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

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

Virginia law allows a local school board to establish by contract an agreement stating the conditions for funding the public 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 public 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.

19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Virginia law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for equitable access to capital funding and facilities. However, Virginia law allows charter schools to access financing through the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority.

4

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

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).