Measuring Up

 



Arkansas

TOTAL SCORE:
128 out of 228

Rank: 29 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  1995
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  39
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  16,051

Arkansas made some modifications to its charter school law in 2013. While these changes are a step in the right direction, they were not significant enough to affect Arkansas’ score and ranking.

Arkansas’ score increased from 122 points in 2013 to 128 points this year. The score change happened because of a change in our methodology for Component #4 (Authorizer and Overall Program Accountability System Required).

Its ranking went from #25 to #29. This drop had more to do with the aggressive changes made in other states than with any steps backward in Arkansas.

Potential areas for improvement include creating additional authorizing options, increasing operational autonomy, and ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

Do Arkansas's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Arkansas's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Arkansas law provides that an unlimited number of conversion charter schools may exist. Arkansas law provides that the number of open enrollment charters that are allowed automatically increases by five each time the number of schools comes within two slots of the cap, which is initially set at 24. There are currently 24 open-enrollment charter schools open in the state.

The law provides that an open enrollment charter schools may not open in the service area of a public school district administratively reorganized under state law until after the third year of the administrative reorganization.

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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

Arkansas law allows new start-ups, public school conversions, and virtual schools.

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2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Arkansas law requires conversion charter schools to be approved by the local school board and the state department of education. It allows new start-up charter school applications (known as open enrollment charter schools in the state) to be reviewed by the local school board prior to review by the state department of education. However, it provides that the local school board’s approval or denial has no binding effect on the state department’s decision.

The law allows a charter applicant, public charter school, and affected school district to submit in writing a request that the state board review the final decision by the department. The law provides that the state board of education may exercise a right of review of a charter determination made by the department on a motion approved by a majority vote. If the state board votes to review a final decision made by the department, the state board may decide by majority vote of the quorum to affirm the decision of the department, take other lawful action on the public charter, or request additional information from the department, public charter school, public charter school applicant, or affected school district.

There are 39 charter schools open in the state.

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3A. The state allows two or more authorizing options (e.g., school districts and a state charter schools commission) for each applicant with direct application to each authorizer.

4. Authorizer & Overall Program Accountability System Required

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Arkansas law requires the state department of education to conduct an annual evaluation of all open-enrollment charter schools, with core elements detailed including student scores, attendance, grades, discipline incidents, socioeconomic data, parent and student satisfaction, and compliance with reporting requirements.

Arkansas law requires the authorizer to report on the status of the open-enrollment public charter school programs to the General Assembly each biennium and to the House Interim Committee on Education and the Senate Interim Committee on Education during the interim between regular sessions of the General Assembly.

However, it does not require the above evaluation and report to summarize the agency’s authorizing activities.

The ability of the state department of education to continue authorizing can be removed by the legislature and the governor (the entities that gave it that authority).

9

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

N/A

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

Arkansas law includes none of the model law's provisions for adequate authorizer funding. Currently, the state department of education has allocated a staff position out of their budget to oversee the charter program.

0

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

Arkansas law and regulation include details regarding petition application contents and processes for all schools. They also include additional application elements specific to conversion schools and replications. They don’t require additional application elements specific to virtual schools and educational service providers.

Arkansas law provides detailed timelines regarding the core aspects of the charter application, review, and decision-making process, including application requirements, approval criteria, an in-person interview, and a public meeting.

Arkansas law requires that decisions regarding approvals must be made in a public meeting and that denials of charter applications must be in writing and include reasons for such disapproval. It requires decisions about open enrollment charter schools to involve a hearing with the state department, including in-person testimony and questions.

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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

Arkansas law requires that the charter must be in the form of a written contract signed by the state commissioner of education and the chief operating officer of the charter school, but there is no requirement that the charter school governing board sign it.

Arkansas law includes a long list of charter contract contents focused on school responsibilities, but nothing regarding roles and responsibilities of the authorizer.

Arkansas law specifies that the charter contract provides that the continuation or renewal of the charter is contingent on acceptable student performance on assessment instruments adopted by the state board and on compliance with any accountability provisions specified within the charter. It also provides that the charter contract must establish the level of student performance that is considered acceptable for continuance and renewal, but it does not define academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged based on a performance framework with a minimum set of essential measures and metrics.

Arkansas law provides that the initial term of a charter is five years.

It does not require charter contracts to include provisions addressing the unique environments of virtual schools.

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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

Arkansas law and regulations require that open-enrollment charter schools submit their scores for all students enrolled for standardized assessments to the state department of education within ten calendar days of the close of the fourth quarter of each school year. They also require the state department to conduct an annual evaluation of all charter schools, with core elements detailed including student scores, attendance, grades, discipline incidents, socioeconomic data, parent and student satisfaction, on-site monitoring, and other terms of the school’s charter

Arkansas law provides that charter schools are subject to the same auditing and accounting requirements as any other public school district, including an annual fiscal audit.

Arkansas law and regulation allow authorizers to conduct or require oversight activities.

While the law does not require authorizers to produce and publish annual school performance reports aligned with the performance framework set forth in each charter, it does require each charter school to provide an annual report to parents, the community, and the authorizer.

Arkansas law provides the authorizer with the authority to require charter schools to appear before it to discuss the results of the state department's annual evaluation and to present further information as needed. It requires the authorizer to notify the charter school of any concerns, and allows schools to request a hearing on these concerns. It also provides the authorizer with the authority to modify a charter, place it on probation, revoke, or deny renewal.

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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

Arkansas law requires the state department of education to conduct an annual evaluation of all charter schools, with core elements detailed including student scores, attendance, grades, discipline incidents, socioeconomic data, parent and student satisfaction, compliance with statutory reporting requirements, and other terms of the school’s charter.

Arkansas regulations state that each charter school must apply for renewal of its charter using a form and timeline prescribed by the state department of education's charter school office.

Arkansas law and regulations outline a transparent process for review and renewal and provide criteria for non-renewal. In addition, they require each charter school to establish the level of student performance that is considered acceptable for continuation or renewal.

Arkansas law provides that the terms of the renewal may be one year or multi-year, allowing up to five years for conversion charter schools and up to 20 years for open enrollment charter schools.

Arkansas law requires the authorizer to notify via certified mail of alleged violations of the school’s charter contract. As provided by Arkansas law, due process procedures include an opportunity for a hearing to the persons operating the charter school and to the parents of students enrolled in the school.

Arkansas law requires that all charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions be made in a public meeting, with the state board stating reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing.

Arkansas law and regulation detail information regarding school non-renewal or revocation issues in relation to disbursement of assets, parent notification, and student and record transitions.

16

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

Arkansas law is silent regarding these arrangements. There is nothing explicit in law that prevents schools from contracting with educational service providers to operate a school nor guides the authorizer in their review of such provisions.

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

Arkansas law requires conversion charter schools to remain a part of the local school district that approved them.

Arkansas law requires that open enrollment charter schools become fiscally and legally autonomous entities governed by an eligible entity that is fiscally accountable and under the governing structure as described by the charter.

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

Arkansas law requires open enrollment charter schools to be open to all students in the state and conversion charter schools to be open to all students in the district.

Arkansas law requires charter schools to use a random anonymous student selection method if interest exceeds capacity. It also allows a weighted lottery to be used when necessary to comply with legally required desegregation efforts.

State law provides that prior year students who wish to continue in attendance at their open enrollment charter school do not have to go through the application and lottery process.

Arkansas law allows open enrollment schools to provide an enrollment preference for children of a school's founders (although these cannot exceed 10% of the school’s enrollment) and siblings of children in the school (but does not require them).

It does not require schools to provide enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions.

4

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

Arkansas law does not grant any automatic exemptions. Instead, it requires each charter application to identify specific exemptions desired and request those as part of the application process, including any requested exemptions to 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

Arkansas law provides that open enrollment charter schools are exempt from participation in school district personnel policies, but that conversion charter schools are bound by school district personnel policies.

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

Arkansas law makes it clear that each charter contract covers a single school site. However, it allows high-performing open enrollment charter schools to petition the authorizer for licenses to establish additional sites on existing charter contracts, with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each site.

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

Arkansas law is silent about charter eligibility and access. Although open enrollment charter schools are LEAs and thus have all the rights and responsibilities associated with district LEAs, silence on these provisions results in a level of uncertainty.

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

Arkansas law provides that districts are the LEAs for special education purposes for conversion charter schools and that charter schools are the LEAs for special education purposes for open enrollment charter schools. It also allows both types of charter schools to apply for additional categorical special education funds to help cover low-incident, high-cost special education services.

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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

Per Arkansas law, a conversion charter school receives funds equal to the amount apportioned by the district from state and local revenue per average daily membership.

Per Arkansas law, an open enrollment charter school receives funds equal to the amount that a public school would receive, as well as any other funding that the public charter school is entitled to receive under law. In reality, traditional districts are allowed to levy mileages (i.e., property taxes), and as a result open enrollment charter schools receive 18-23% less funding per pupil than traditional district schools.

In reference to transportation, Arkansas law provides charter schools the same per pupil base amount for transportation as public school districts.

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

Arkansas law creates an open enrollment public charter school capital grant program. However, the state has not provided funding to this program.

Arkansas law creates an open enrollment public charter school facilities loan fund. However, the state has not provided funding to this program.

Arkansas law provides that a school district or public charter school may enter into public-private partnerships whereby the school district or public charter school enters into a lease-purchase agreement for the acquisition or construction of a school building or related facilities built or acquired by the private entities with facilities bonds exempt from federal taxes.

Arkansas law gives open enrollment charter schools the right of first refusal to purchase or lease at fair market value a closed public school or unused potions of a public school located in a district from which it draws it students. It also provides that a district may not require lease payments that exceed the fair market value of a property, and that a district is not required to lease to an open enrollment charter school if an offer higher than fair market value is offered by an entity other than the charter school through a competitive bid process.

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

Arkansas law requires certified staff within open enrollment and conversion charter schools to participate in the state retirement system.

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).