Measuring Up

 



Arizona

TOTAL SCORE:
147 out of 228

Rank: 16 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  1994
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  605
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  184,400

Arizona 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 Arizona’s score and ranking.

Arizona’s score increased from 141 points in 2013 to 147 points this year. The score changed because the state’s caps on university authorizers expired for Component #1 (No Caps) and because of a change in our methodology for Component #3 (Multiple Authorizers Available).

Its ranking went from #13 to #16. This drop had more to do with the aggressive changes made in other states than with any steps backward in Arizona.

Potential areas for improvement in Arizona’s law include ensuring authorizer accountability, providing adequate authorizer funding, and ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

Do Arizona's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Arizona's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Arizona law does not place any caps on charter school growth.

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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.

N/A

2. A Variety of Public Charter Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Arizona 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

Arizona law allows charter applicants to apply to a local school board (for schools only within their geographic boundaries), the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools (ASBCS), the state board of education, a university, a community college district, or a group of community college districts. However, the state board of education has a self-imposed moratorium on charter authorizing, so ASBCS currently oversees all schools approved by both state boards. There is considerable authorizing activity by local school boards, higher educational institutions, and the ASBCS.

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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

Arizona law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for authorizer and overall program accountability.

Arizona law requires the ASBCS, as a state agency, to annually submit a report of its authorizing activities, including things like the number of applications reviewed and approved, number of site visits conducted, number of audits reviewed, number of corrective action plans required, and number of charters revoked. However, Arizona law does not require that all authorizers submit an annual report of their work.

Arizona law does not provide for a formal review process by an authorizer oversight body. Instead, it requires the ASBCS to oversee the schools it approves as well as recommend any needed charter school legislation. Members of the ASBCS include the elected state superintendent of public instruction or designee, 10 members appointed by the governor, and three elected legislators who serve as advisory members. This group must annually report to the legislature for funding its operations, and agency goals and accountability systems for charter schools must be included in that report. Additionally, the Arizona law creating the ASBCS is scheduled to sunset every 10 years unless continued.

Arizona law provides that the state board of education has some oversight over local school board authorizers whereby they can remove the ability of any local school board authorizer to approve additional schools (and can transfer the sponsorship of any existing schools) if it finds a local school board authorizer is out of compliance with the uniform system of financial records.

The law does not require a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state, does not include an application process for a university, a community college district, or a group of community college districts to become an authorizer, and it does not require a periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

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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.

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

Arizona law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for adequate authorizer funding.

The law does not provide adequate and guaranteed funding to authorizers. However, the ASBCS receives a small annual appropriation to cover the expenses of the board, staffing, and external contracts for various oversight functions. State law now allows the ASBCS to accept gifts or grants. Also, state department of education staff or other state employees complete some oversight functions.

State law allows authorizers to charge a new charter application processing fee to any applicant, which must fully cover the cost of application review and any needed technical assistance. It also allows authorizers to approve policies that allow a portion of the fee to be returned to the applicant whose charter is approved. The law allows the ASBCS to charge a processing fee to any charter school that amends its contract to participate in the Arizona Online Instruction program.

Arizona law provides that authorizers, as public entities, are held accountable for reporting their expenditures, but there are no requirements to specifically report expenditures on authorizing activities.

Except for the new charter application processing fee, Arizona law provides that authorizers may not charge any fees to schools they sponsor unless they have provided services for the school, and any such fees must represent full value of those services. On request, the value of such services must be demonstrated to the state department of education. There is nothing in statute requiring a separate contract for any such services purchased.

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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

Arizona law provides application elements for all charter schools. It does not provide additional application elements specific to conversion schools.

A separate statute includes application requirements for any on-line schools in the state (both charter and non-charter).
The ASBCS also has policies that require information regarding proposed educational service provider usage in their application and policies for a replication application and review process. These policies apply to all schools approved by the two state boards, but not to schools approved by local school boards and higher educational institutions.

While the law does not require authorizers to issue requests for proposals that include application requirements and approval criteria, Arizona law has general language regarding approval criteria (i.e., if application meets the criteria and if a sponsor has determined applicant is sufficiently qualified to operate a charter school). In addition, ASBCS regulations detail its approval criteria and processes and define “sufficiently qualified."" However, these detailed application processes do not apply to local school board and higher educational authorizers.

The law does not require authorizers to conduct a thorough evaluation of each application including an in-person interview and a public meeting. While not required by law, the ASBCS conducts interviews as part of its application review process.

Arizona law requires authorizers to make decisions in public meetings. For those applications denied, it requires authorizers to notify the applicant in writing of the reasons for the rejection and of suggestions for improving the application.

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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

Arizona law provides that an authorizer of a charter school may contract with a public body, private person or private organization for the purpose of establishing a charter school.

Arizona law requires all such contracts to include elements from the application regarding the roles and responsibilities of charter schools, but does not require the inclusion of requirements regarding the role of the authorizers.

The law does not require contracts to include detailed performance expectations against which schools are to be judged. In implementing their oversight and administrative responsibilities, however, Arizona law requires authorizers to ground their actions in evidence of the charter holder’s performance in accordance with the performance framework adopted by the authorizer, which shall include the academic performance expectations of the charter school and the measurement of sufficient progress toward the academic performance expectations, the operational expectations of the charter school, including adherence to all applicable laws and obligations of the charter contract, and intervention and improvement policies.

Renewal requirement policies for those approved or currently overseen by the ASBCS include more detailed performance contracts, but these policies do not apply to other authorizers nor are they codified in Arizona law or the Arizona Administrative Code.

Arizona law provides that the initial charter term is 15 years, but requires authorizers to review charters at five-year intervals using a performance framework adopted by the authorizer.

Arizona law does not require that contracts include requirements 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

Statutory provisions require academic performance data to be collected annually by each authorizer.

Arizona law requires charter schools to have an annual financial audit.

The law does not require authorizers to produce and publish annual school performance reports aligned with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract. However, it requires charter schools to participate in the state’s accountability system, which includes annual state-produced school report cards, which are public. While such report cards detail academic performance on the state assessments, they do not include all the types of measures (including financial performance, compliance, and school-specific measures) that an authorizer’s performance report would include as outlined in the model law.

Arizona law states that the authorizers have oversight and administrative responsibility for the schools they authorize. In implementing their oversight and administrative responsibilities, it requires them to ground their actions in evidence of the charter holder’s performance in accordance with the performance framework adopted by the authorizer, which shall include the academic performance expectations of the charter school and the measurement of sufficient progress toward the academic performance expectations, the operational expectations of the charter school, including adherence to all applicable laws and obligations of the charter contract, and intervention and improvement policies. It also requires authorizers to notify schools of concerns and allows authorizers to require a corrective action plan and disciplinary actions (such as withholding up to 10% of the charter’s monthly state aide), enter into a consent agreement regarding the resolution of the noncompliance, or begin revocation.

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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.

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

Per Arizona law, schools must apply for a renewal of their charter at least 15 months before the expiration of its charter. It also allows schools to apply for early renewal at least nine months before the charter school’s intended renewal consideration.

The law requires authorizers to make a renewal application available to schools facing renewal. ASBCS policies include detailed renewal application requirements for schools approved by them, including the ability to offer supplementary performance information and future plans. However, the law does not require authorizers to issue performance reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.

Arizona law provides that an authorizer may deny a request for renewal if, in its judgment, the charter holder has failed to do any of the following: meet or make sufficient progress toward the academic performance expectations set forth in the performance framework; meet the operational performance expectations set forth in the performance framework or any improvement plans; complete the obligations of the contract; or comply with the charter school statutes or any provision of law which the charter school is not exempt. ASBCS regulations note that renewals may be granted to schools based on assessment results, financial audit reports, enrollment reports, and complaint records.

The law allows an authorizer to revoke a charter at any time if the charter school breaches one or more provisions of its charter or if the authorizer determines that the charter holder has failed to do any of the following: meet or make sufficient progress toward the academic performance expectations set forth in the performance framework; meet the operational performance expectations set forth in the performance framework or any improvement plan; or comply with the charter school statutes or any provision of law which the charter school is not exempt.

Statute requires 20-year renewal intervals, with no ability to vary those terms.

Arizona law requires timely notification of potential non-renewal and revocation, including written reasons, with any such non-renewals and revocations occurring at a public hearing.

Neither statutes nor regulations detail school closure protocols, although revocation orders and surrender agreements issued by the ASBCS include such information for schools supervised by that board.

Overall, many of the pieces within this section have been implemented for schools supervised by ASBCS, but these policies are not required for all authorizers nor are they yet codified in Arizona law or Arizona Administrative Code.

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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

Arizona law is silent regarding any educational service provider arrangements, with no explicit provisions regarding performance data, contracts, authorizer approval, school governing board independence, and conflict of interests. Thus, there is nothing in law that prevents schools from contracting with educational service providers to operate a school nor prevents some educational service providers from directly applying to run a charter school.

ASBCS policies require those applying to this board to offer details regarding any ESP in their application, including: services to be provided; the ESP’s roles and responsibilities in relation to the applicant, and the school’s management and governing board; performance expectations for the ESP; background information on the ESP including relevant performance data for other schools that the ESP has managed; and the actual service agreement as executed between the applicant and the ESP or a template version if not yet executed. However, these requirements aren’t applicable to local school board and higher educational authorizers.

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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

Arizona law provides that all charter schools are fiscally and legally autonomous schools under the control of a “charter holder.” That charter holder may be a for-profit entity, a non-profit entity, or a single individual, and may operate one or more schools under their charter, with such schools having boards with varying levels of authority over the school.

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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

Arizona law requires charter schools to be open to all students in the state.

Arizona law requires charter schools to use equitable selection processes such as a lottery if demand exceeds capacity.

Arizona law requires charter schools to give enrollment preferences to pupils returning to the school and to siblings of such students. In addition, it requires charter schools sponsored by local school boards to give enrollment preferences to eligible pupils who reside within the boundaries of the district.

Arizona law allows charter schools to give preference to children, grandchildren, or legal wards of employees of the school, employees of the charter holder, members of the governing body of the school, or directors, officers, partners, or board members of the charter holder and to a pupil who attended another charter school or are the siblings of that pupil if the charter school previously attended by the pupil has the identical charter holder, board, and governing board membership as the enrolling charter school or is managed by the same educational management organization, charter management organization, or educational service provider as determined by the charter authorizer. However, there is no limit on the percentage of a school’s total student population that may be admitted via these preferences.

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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

Except as provided in Arizona’s charter school law for things like health, safety, and academic accountability and as provided in a charter school’s charter contract, Arizona law provides that a charter school is automatically exempt from statutes and rules relating to traditional public schools, governing boards, and school districts.

Arizona law provides that teachers within charter schools do not need to meet state certification requirements, but employee qualifications must be specified in the charter application and resumes for all employees must be maintained by the school and made available upon request by parents or others, including information on educational and teaching backgrounds and experience in a particular academic content subject area.

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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

Arizona law provides that all charter schools are their own legal entity and thus do not have to abide by any outside agreements.

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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

Arizona regulatory provisions regarding these arrangements require details for multi-site locations to be identified in the charter application. However, there is nothing in statute or regulation ensuring independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

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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

Arizona law is silent about charter eligibility and access. Although 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.

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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

Arizona law provides that each charter school in the state is its own LEA and thus responsible for the special education needs of their enrolled students. However, Arizona law does not provide clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high cost services for charter schools in the same amount or in a manner similar to other LEAs.

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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

Arizona law calculates a base support level for each charter school and these funds flow directly to charter schools for those approved by non-district entities. For those approved by a local district board, it flows through that district.

Arizona law provides equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.

For charter schools authorized by local school boards, the law allows the district to provide transportation. For other charter schools, the law does not provide state transportation aid.

In a national study of charter school funding (Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists, 2010), Arizona charter schools were receiving on average $7,597 per pupil, while traditional public schools would have received $9,576 for those students. As a result, the state's charter schools were receiving $1,979 per pupil - or 20.7% - less than what the traditional public schools would have received for those students. This figure includes all sources of funding, and analysis reveals some continued significant inequities for both operational and capital funding (see component #19 for information on capital issues).

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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

Arizona law provides charter schools with a per pupil allocation called “additional assistance” that may be used for facility construction as well as other operational needs. Statute provides that this amount is $1,684.19 per K-8 pupil and $1,962.90 per high school pupil. There is no provision, however, for this amount to be adjusted to reflect average facility funding received by traditional public schools or a construction price index.

Arizona law allows non-profit charter schools to apply for bond financing from Industrial Development Authorities.

Arizona law requires the state department of education, in conjunction with the state department of administration, to compile and publish an annual list of vacant and unused buildings or portions of buildings owned by the state or school districts that may be suitable for the operation of a charter school. However, nothing requires the owner to offer the right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value to charter schools.

Arizona law classifies charter schools the same as public schools that are operated by a school district for the purposes of assessments of zoning fees, site plan fees, and development fees, including any required hearings or applications. It also prevents any political subdivision of the state from enacting or interpreting any law, rule, or ordinance in a manner that conflicts with that designation.

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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

Arizona law provides that charter schools have the option to participate in the Arizona state retirement system. In addition, charter schools have the option to participate in the state health and accident insurance coverage program.

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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).