Measuring Up

 



Alaska

TOTAL SCORE:
78 out of 228

Rank: 39 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted: 1995
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14: 27
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14: 6,123

Changes in 2014

Alaska’s score increased from 67 points to 78 points. The score changed for Component #3 (Multiple Authorizers Available), Component #5 (Adequate Authorizer Funding), and Component #18 (Equitable Operational Funding and Equal Access to All State and Federal Categorical Funding) because of legislation that the state enacted in 2014. Its ranking moved from #40 to #39.

Recommendations

Alaska’s law does not cap public charter school growth and includes an appellate mechanism for charter applicants rejected by local school boards, but it also provides little autonomy, insufficient accountability, and inequitable facilities funding.

Alaska’s law still needs major improvement. Potential starting points include 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 access to capital funding and facilities.

Do Alaska's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Alaska's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Alaska 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

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

8

2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Alaska law requires applicants to apply to their local school boards. If the local school board approves the application, the local school board must forward the application to the state board of education and early development for review and approval.

If the local school board denies an application, the applicant may appeal the denial to the state commissioner of education. The law allows the state commissioner to remand the appeal to the local school board for further review, approve the application and forward it to the state board of education, or uphold the denial by the local school board.

If the state commissioner upholds the denial by the local school board, the applicant may appeal to the state board.

The law provides that a local school board that denied an application for a charter school approved by the state board shall operate the charter school.

6

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

Alaska law includes none of the elements of the model law’s authorizer and overall program accountability system.

0

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

Alaska law allows school districts to retain up to 4 percent of a charter school’s program budget to cover the district’s administrative costs. The law requires a local school board to provide a charter school with a report itemizing the administrative costs retained by the local school board.

The law does not require a separate contract for any services purchased from an authorizer by a school and does not prohibit authorizers from requiring schools to purchase services from them.

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

Alaska law provides application requirements for all charter schools.

The law requires districts to state their decisions about applications in writing.

The law does not include additional application elements specific to conversion schools, virtual schools, educational service providers, and replications. It does not require authorizers to issue a request for proposals, thoroughly evaluate each application (including an in-person interview and a public meeting), and make approval and denial decisions in a public meeting.

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

Alaska law requires charter contracts, but the requirements only concern school roles, powers, and responsibilities and don’t address authorizer roles, powers, and responsibilities. The law requires the contract to provide specific levels of achievement for the school's education program, but does not require a more detailed performance framework. Alaska law also provides that contracts may be for a term of no more than 10 years. It does not mandate that contracts include requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools.

8

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

Alaska law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for comprehensive charter school monitoring and data collection processes.

The law does allow the state department of education to audit a charter school’s program during the term of a charter contract and to take any action necessary to ensure compliance with federal and state law, including the withholding of money.

The law does not require authorizers to collect and analyze student outcome data at least annually, does not require annual school performance reports that are made public, does not require authorizers to notify their schools of perceived problems and give their schools opportunities to remedy such problems, and does not give authorizers the authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.

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.

N/A

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

N/A

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

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

Alaska law requires each charter contract to contain a termination clause providing that the charter contract may be terminated by the local school board for the failure of the school to meet educational achievement goals or fiscal management standards or for other good cause. It also provides that contracts may be for a term of no more than 10 years.

Alaska law does not require authorizers to issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year; does not require schools seeking renewal to apply for it; does not require authorizers to issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans; does not require authorizers to ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract; does not provide authorizers the authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues; does not require authorizers to provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or nonrenewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond; does not require authorizers to provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions; does not 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 does not 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

Alaska law includes none of the model law’s provisions for educational service providers.

0

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

Alaska law includes none of the model law’s provisions for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent public charter school boards.

0

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

Alaska law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for clear student recruitment, enrollment, and lottery procedures.

Alaska law requires charter schools to hold lotteries if too many students seek enrollment in the school.

The law does not require charters to provide open enrollment to any student in the state and does not include the model law’s required and optional enrollment preferences.

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 from most state and district laws and regulations, Alaska law provides that a charter school operates as a school in the local school district except that a charter school:

* Is exempt from a school district’s textbook, program, curriculum and scheduling requirements;
* Is exempt from a state law that requires superintendents of schools to select, appoint, and otherwise control school district employees that serve under the superintendent; instead, it provides that the principal of a charter school shall be selected by the school’s academic policy committee and shall select, appoint, or otherwise supervise employees of the charter school; and
* Operates under the charter school’s annual program budget as set out in the contract between the local school board and the charter school.

It also states that school boards may exempt a charter school from other school district requirements if the exemption is set out in the contract.

Alaska law does not exempt charter schools from state teacher certification requirements.

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

Alaska law requires all charter schools to be part of existing collective bargaining agreements, but schools can apply for exemptions.

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

Alaska 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

Alaska law explicitly allows 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.

3

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

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

17. Clear Identification of Special Education Responsibilities

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Alaska law is silent about special education responsibilities and funding.

0

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

Alaska law includes some 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.

Alaska law requires a local school board to provide a charter school with an annual program budget that shall not be less than the amount generated by the students enrolled in the charter school less administrative costs retained by the school district, determined by applying the indirect cost rate approved by the department up to 4 percent. Costs directly related to charter school facilities, including rent, utilities, and maintenance, may not be included in an annual program budget for the purposes of calculating the 4 percent cap on administrative costs.

The law provides that the “amount generated by students enrolled in the charter school” is to be determined in the same manner as it would be for a student enrolled in another public school in that school district and includes funds generated by grants, appropriations, federal impact aid, the required local contribution, the local contribution under AS 14.17.410(c), special needs under AS 14.17.420(a)(1), and secondary school vocational and technical instruction under AS 14.17.420(a)(3).

The law requires a school district that provides transportation services under state law to provide transportation services to students attending a charter school operated by the district under a policy adopted by the district. The policy must be developed with input solicited from individuals involved with the charter school, including staff, students, and parents; at a minimum, provide transportation services for students enrolled in the charter school on a space-available basis along the regular routes that the students attending schools in an attendance area in the district are transported; and be approved by the state department of education. If a school district fails to adopt a policy, the school district shall allocate the amount received for each charter school student to each charter school operated by the district based on the number of students enrolled in the charter school.

Alaska law allows a charter school that is established on or after the effective date of this section to receive a one-time grant from the state department of education equal to the amount of $500 for each student enrolled in the school on October 1 of the first year in which the school applies for the grant. The charter school shall use a grant received under this section to provide educational services, which include curriculum development, program development, and special education services.

4

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

Alaska law provides that charter schools are eligible through their local municipalities to access tax-exempt financing through the Alaska Municipal Bond Bank Authority.

Alaska law requires school districts to direct state aid under AS 14.11 for the construction or major maintenance of a charter school facility to the charter school that generated the state aid, subject to the same terms and conditions that apply to state aid under AS 14.11 for construction and major maintenance of a school facility that is not a charter school.

Alaska law requires a school district to offer to a charter school the right of first refusal for a lease of space in an existing school district facility or in a facility within the school district that is not currently being used as a public school, if the chief school administrator determines the facility meets requirements for health and safety applicable to public buildings or other public schools in the district.

The law allows a municipality to classify and exempt or partially exempt from taxation all or a portion of privately owned real property rented or leased for use as a charter school.

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

Alaska 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).