Measuring Up

 



Wisconsin

TOTAL SCORE:
110 out of 228

Rank: 37 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted: 1993
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2014-15: 245
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2014-15: 42,704

Changes in 2015

Wisconsin’s score increased from 79 points to 110 points because of new policies for Component #3 (Multiple Authorizers Available), Component #5 (Adequate Authorizer Funding), Component #7 (Performance-Based Charter Contracts Required), Component #8 (Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes), Component #11 (Fiscally and Legally Autonomous Schools with Independent Charter Public School Boards), Component #12 (Clear Student Recruitment, Enrollment, and Lottery Procedures), Component #15 (Multischool Charter Contracts and/or Multicharter Contract Boards Allowed), and Component #17 (Clear Identification of Special Education Responsibilities). Its ranking went from #38 to #37.

Recommendations

Wisconsin’s law now is largely cap free, allows multiple authorizing options in some districts, provides adequate autonomy for charters, but it provides inadequate accountability and inequitable funding to charters.

Potential areas for improvement include providing multiple authorizing options in all districts, beefing up the law’s application and renewal requirements, and ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

Do Wisconsin's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Wisconsin's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Wisconsin law is generally free of caps on charter school growth. However, Wisconsin law provides that the number of charter schools authorized by the college of Menominee Nation and the Lac Courte Orielles Ojibwa community college may not exceed six.

9

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

Wisconsin law does not place any caps on district-authorized charter schools or on nondistrict authorized schools in Milwaukee. However, Wisconsin law provides that the University of Wisconsin-Parkside may sponsor only one charter school in the Racine School District that may not enroll more than 480 students. Also, the Milwaukee Public Schools has created a cap on the percentage of district students (8 percent) that may enroll in district schools that aren’t unionized, which includes noninstrumentality charters.

8

2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Wisconsin law allows the following entities to be authorizers:

* In all districts, Wisconsin law allows local school boards, the city of Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Area Technical College, the University of Milwaukee-Parkside, the college of Menominee Nation, and the Lac Courte Orielles Ojibwa community college to serve as authorizers.
* The University of Wisconsin System may authorize charters in Milwaukee and Madison via a newly created Office of Educational Opportunity (whose director will be appointed by the University of Wisconsin’s president).
* The County Executive of Waukesha County may authorize charters in Waukesha County.
* The Gateway Technical College District Board may authorize charters located in the Gateway technical college district if the charter school operates only high school grades and provides a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or occupational education and training.

9

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

Wisconsin law includes a small number of the elements of the model law's authorizer and overall program accountability system.

The law requires authorizer submission of an annual report that summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio.

While the law does not require the legislature and the governor to regularly review the performance of the city of Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Area Technical College, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, the college of Menominee Nation, the Lac Courte Orielles Ojibwa community college, the University of Wisconsin System, the County Executive of Waukesha County, and the Gateway Technical College District Board as authorizers, they can do so at any time. In addition, the ability of the city of Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Area Technical College, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, the college of Menominee Nation, the Lac Courte Orielles Ojibwa community college, the University of Wisconsin System, the County Executive of Waukesha County, and the Gateway Technical College District Board to continue authorizing can be removed by the legislature and the governor (the entities that gave them that authority).

The law does not require at least a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state, does not require an application process for other eligible authorizing entities, does not require a regular review process by an authorizer oversight body of local school board authorizers, does not require an authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction local school board authorizers including removal of authorizer right to approve schools, and does not require a periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

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

Wisconsin law lacks most of the model law's provisions for adequate authorizer funding. However, it does include a requirement for authorizers to publicly report the operating costs incurred (detailed in an audited financial statement prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles) and the services it provided to the charter schools under contract with it and an itemized accounting of the cost of the services.

2

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

Wisconsin law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for transparent charter application, review, and decisionmaking processes.

Wisconsin law requires application elements for all schools and includes additional application elements specific to virtual schools. However, it does not include additional application elements specific to conversion schools, educational service providers, and replications. It also does not require authorizers to issue requests for proposals, thoroughly evaluate each application via an in-person interview and a public meeting, make all approval and denial decisions in a public meeting, and state reasons for denials in writing.

4

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

Under Wisconsin law, charter contracts exist as separate documents from the application and are between the authorizer and governing board of a charter school, but the contract requirements only concern school roles, powers, and responsibilities and don’t address authorizer roles, powers, and responsibilities.

The law provides that charter contracts must include a requirement that the charter school governing board adhere to specified annual academic and operational performance standards developed in accordance with the performance framework of the entity with which it is contracting.

Wisconsin law requires an initial charter term of five years.

The law doesn't include requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools.

12

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

Wisconsin law requires that non-district authorizers collect and analyze student outcome data at least annually, the charter petition specify the manner in which annual financial audits will be performed and provides authorizers the authority to conduct or require oversight activities.

The law doesn’t require authorizers to publish annual school performance reports, require authorizers to notify their schools of perceived problems and give schools opportunities to remedy such problems, and provide authorizers the authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.

8

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

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

Under Wisconsin law, a charter may be revoked for violating its contract, if the pupils enrolled in the charter school failed to make sufficient progress toward attaining the state education goals, for failing to comply with generally accepted accounting standards of fiscal management, or for violating the state's charter school law.

Wisconsin law specifies that a charter may be renewed for one or more additional terms not to exceed five years.

Wisconsin law does not require authorizers to issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year; require schools seeking renewal to apply for it; require authorizers to issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans; require authorizers to ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract; provide authorizers the authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues; require authorizers to provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or nonrenewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond; require authorizers to provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions; require authorizers to make all charter renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions in a public meeting and to state reasons for nonrenewals and revocations in writing; and require authorizers to have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.

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

Wisconsin law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for educational service providers.

Wisconsin law does not directly address educational service providers but allows a contract with an individual or group to operate a charter school. The law also provides that if the City of Milwaukee contracts with an individual or group operating for profit to operate a school as a charter school, the charter school is an instrumentality of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), and the MPS board must employ all personnel for the charter school.

There are no provisions in the law related to performance contracts, authorizer approval of such contracts, and relationships between educational service providers and the charter board.

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

Wisconsin law provides that, subject to the terms of its contract, a charter school governing board has all the powers necessary to carry out the terms of its contract, including all of the following:

* To receive and disburse funds for school purposes.
* To secure appropriate insurance.
* To enter into contracts, including contracts with a University of Wisconsin institution or college campus, technical college district board, or private college or university, for technical or financial assistance, academic support, curriculum review, or other services.
* To incur debt in reasonable anticipation of the receipt of funds.
* To pledge, assign, or encumber its assets to be used as collateral for loans or extensions of credit.
* To solicit and accept gifts or grants for school purposes.
* To acquire real property for its use.
* To sue and be sued in its own name.

It also requires each charter school to be governed by a governing board that is a party to the contract with the authorizing entity and provides that no more than a minority of the governing board’s members may be employees of the charter school or employees or officers of the school district in which the charter school is located.

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

Wisconsin law allows charter schools authorized by local school boards, the city of Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Area Technical College, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, the college of Menominee Nation, the Lac Courte Orielles Ojibwa community college, the University of Wisconsin System, the County Executive of Waukesha County to provide open enrollment to any student in the state. Wisconsin law provides that only pupils who reside within the boundaries of the Gateway technical college district or in a county adjacent to the Gateway technical college district may attend a charter school established under a contract with the Gateway technical college district board.

Wisconsin law requires that charter contracts require that if the capacity of the charter school is insufficient to accept all pupils who apply, the charter school shall accept pupils at random.

Wisconsin law requires enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions, prior year students within chartered schools, siblings of enrolled students enrolled at a charter school.

Wisconsin law provides that a charter school may give preference in enrollment to the children of the charter school’s founders, governing board members, and full−time employees, but the total number of such children given preference may constitute no more than 10 percent of the charter school’s total enrollment.

6

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

Wisconsin law provides that a charter school authorized by a city, university, or technical college receives an automatic waiver from state and district education laws, regulations and policies, while a charter school that is authorized by a local school board receives an automatic waiver from state education laws, regulations and policies, but not from school district education laws, regulations and policies.

Wisconsin law requires charter school teachers be certified. However, Wisconsin law directs the state department of public instruction to grant a charter school teaching license to any person who has a bachelor’s degree and demonstrates that he or she is proficient in the subject or subjects that he or she intends to teach. The license authorizes the person to teach that subject or those subjects in a charter school. The bill does not explicitly limit the person to teaching only certain grades. The license is valid for three years and may be renewed. Also, if a school’s search for a licensed teacher is unsuccessful, the law provides a special charter school permit for persons with a bachelor's degree in their field who take six credits of training each year and are supervised by a teacher with a regular license.

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

Under Wisconsin law, charter schools authorized by nonlocal board authorizers and charter schools authorized by local board authorizers that employ their own staff are exempt from participation in any outside collective bargaining agreements, while those authorized by local school boards that do not employ their own staff are not exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

6

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

Wisconsin law provides that a charter contract may provide for the establishment of more than one charter school and a charter school governing board may enter into more than one contract with an authorizer.

Wisconsin law provides that charter contracts must include a provision allowing the charter school governing board to open one or more additional charter schools if all of the charter schools operated by the governing board were assigned to one of the top two performance categories in the most recent school and school district accountability report. If the charter school governing board opens one or more additional charter schools, the existing contract applies to the new school or schools unless the parties agree to amend the existing contract or enter into a new contract. The law also requires independent accountability for each school.

8

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

Wisconsin law is silent on this issue. In practice, however, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association allows charter school participation.

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

The law provides that independent charters are their own LEAs. In practice, a charter school that is sponsored by a local school board may be either part of the school district LEA that authorized it or its own LEA. The law is unclear about funding for low-incident, high-cost services.

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

Wisconsin law is silent on how district-authorized charter schools should be funded. It provides that non-district-authorized public charter schools will receive $8,079 per pupil in 2015-16 and $8,199 per pupil in 2016-16. It also specifies different ways of providing these funds depending on the type of non-district authorizer that approved the school.

The operator of an independent charter school may provide transportation to pupils attending the charter school and may claim transportation aid under state law for pupils so transported.

In a recent national study of charter school funding (University of Arkansas, Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands, 2014), Wisconsin charter schools were receiving on average $9,870 per pupil in public funds, while traditional public schools would have received $15,879 for those students. As a result, the state’s charter schools were receiving $6,009 per pupil—or 37.8 percent—less than what the traditional public schools would have received for those students. This figure includes all sources of funding, and analysis reveals significant inequities for both operational and capital funding (see Component #19 for information on capital issues).

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

Wisconsin law provides that charter schools are eligible to receive tax-exempt financing from the Wisconsin Health and Educational Facilities Authority and various city redevelopment agencies.

Wisconsin law prescribes how the Milwaukee Public Schools must report and sell underutilized and vacant buildings, while giving a preference to public charter school operators.

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

Under Wisconsin law, only those charter schools whose personnel are employees of the school district are eligible to participate in the state retirement 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).