Measuring Up

 



Connecticut

TOTAL SCORE:
114 out of 228

Rank: 33 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  1996
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  18 
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  7,131

Connecticut did not pass any legislation in 2013 that affected its score and ranking.

Connecticut’s score increased from 110 points in 2013 to 114 points this year. The score changed because of a change in state practice for Component #3 (Multiple Authorizers Available), a change in our methodology for Component #4 (Authorizer and Overall Program Accountability System Required), and further clarification about the specific policies for Component #20 (Access to Relevant Employee Retirement Systems). Its ranking went from #31 to #33.

Much improvement is still needed in Connecticut’s public charter school law, including lifting its remaining restrictions on growth, providing additional authorizing options, beefing up performance contracting requirements, and ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

Do Connecticut's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Connecticut's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Connecticut law contains the following caps: 250 students per state board of education-authorized charter or 25 percent of the enrollment of the district in which the charter is located, whichever is less, and 300 students per state board of education-authorized K-8 charter or 25 percent of the enrollment of the district in which the charter is located, whichever is less. State law allows the state board to waive these cap restrictions for charters with a demonstrated record of achievement.

State law only laws public charter schools to open in towns that have one or more schools that have been designated as a commissioner's network school or in towns that have been designated as a low achieving school district.
State law provides that on and after July 1, 2012, and before July 1, 2017, the state board of education shall not approve more than four applications for the establishment of new state charter schools unless two of the four such applications are for the establishment of two new state charter schools whose mission, purpose, and specialized focus is to provide dual language programs or other models focusing on language acquisition for English language learners.

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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

Connecticut law provides that state charters are new start-ups and are approved by the state board of education. It also provides that local charters are conversions of a traditional public school or part of a traditional public school into a charter school and are approved by the local or regional board of education of the school districts in which it is located and by the state board of education. Connecticut law does not contain provisions specifically allowing or preventing 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

Connecticut law provides that state charters must be approved by the state board of education and that local charters must be approved by the local school board and the state board of education. There are currently 18 charter schools 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

While the law does not require the legislature and governor to regularly review the performance of the state board of education as an authorizer, they can do so at any time. In addition, the ability of the state board of education to continue authorizing can be removed by the legislature and governor (the entities that gave it that authority).

Connecticut law requires the state commissioner of education to biannually review and report on the operation of charter schools to the joint standing education committee of the general assembly regarding statutory change recommendations to facilitate expansion in the number of charter schools, a compilation of charter school profiles, an assessment of the adequacy of funding, and adequacy and availability of suitable facilities for charter schools.

However, it does not require at least a registration process for school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state, authorizer submission of an annual report that summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio, a regular review process by authorizer oversight body of local school board authorizers, and an authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction local school board authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools.

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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.

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

Connecticut law includes none of the model law's provisions for adequate authorizer funding. However, 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

Connecticut law contains application elements for all schools and additional application elements specific to conversion schools. It does not contain additional application elements specific to virtual schools, elements specific to when using educational service providers, and elements specific to replications.

Connecticut law does not require authorizers to issue requests for proposals including application requirements and approval criteria. However, this practice has begun.

Connecticut law requires the state board of education to hold a public hearing within the school district that a given school is to be located for both the initial application and for renewals, but does not require in-person interviews.

Connecticut law requires the vote regarding the approval of an application to be made in an open meeting, but does not require authorizers to state reasons for denials in writing.

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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

Connecticut law includes none of the model law's provisions for performance-based charter contracts. Connecticut law provides that a charter may be granted for a period of up to five years.

0

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

Connecticut law does not. In practice, the state department of education (as authorizer) collects a significant amount of performance data to help determine which schools can demonstrate a record of achievement so that they might enroll more students per grade per the state’s cap provisions.

While the law does not require authorizers to collect and analyze student outcome data at least annually and to produce and publish annual school performance reports, the law requires charter schools to submit an annual profile to the state commissioner of education as well as an annual report which covers the educational progress of students, financial conditions (including an audit statement), accomplishment of mission, racial/ethnic composition of students and efforts to increase diversity, and best practices.

Connecticut law allows the state commissioner of education to conduct oversight activities, place a charter school on probation, and require the implementation of a corrective action plan based upon failure to adequately demonstrate student progress or other material violation concerns.

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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

Connecticut law requires charter schools seeking renewal to apply for it. For such renewal applications, the law allows the state board of education to commission an independent appraisal of the charter school’s performance.

Connecticut law provides that the state board of education may deny an application for the renewal of a charter if: student progress has not been sufficiently demonstrated, as determined by the state commissioner of education; the governing council of the school has not been sufficiently responsible for the operation of the school or has misused or spent public funds in a manner that is detrimental to the educational interests of the students attending the charter school; the school has not been in compliance with applicable laws and regulations; or the efforts of the school have been insufficient to effectively attract, enroll and retain students with a history of low academic performance, students who receive free or reduced priced lunches pursuant to federal law and regulations, students with a history of behavioral and social difficulties, students identified as requiring special education, or students who are English language learners.

Connecticut law also provides that the state board of education may revoke a charter if a charter school has failed to: comply with the terms of probation, including the failure to file or implement a corrective action plan; demonstrate satisfactory student progress, as determined by the state commissioner of education; comply with the terms of its charter or applicable laws and regulations; or manage its public funds in a prudent or legal manner.

Connecticut law allows a charter to be renewed for up to five years.

Unless an emergency exists, prior to revoking a charter, Connecticut law requires the state board to provide the governing council for the charter school with written notice of revocation reasons and an opportunity to demonstrate compliance with all requirements for the retention of its charter, including documentary and testimonial evidence to refute the facts cited by the state board for the proposed revocation.

The law requires all actions regarding renewals, nonrenewals, and revocations to be made in a public meeting.

Connecticut law does not require authorizers to issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year, require authorizers to issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans, and require authorizers to have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.

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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

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

Connecticut law allows charter school boards to contract with, or enter into, agreements for purposes of administrative or other support services, transportation, plant services, and leasing facilities or equipment. But there are no provisions requiring educational service provider information within the charter application, requiring authorizer approval of any performance contracts between schools and educational service providers, or ensuring school governing boards operate as entities legally and fiscally independent of any educational service provider.

Connecticut law includes a definition of charter management organizations and requires the state board to adopt regulations that prohibit a charter school and any affiliated charter management organization from sharing board members with other charter schools and such organizations, require the disclosure of sharing management personnel, and prohibit unsecured, non-interest bearing transfers of state and federal funds between charter schools and from charter schools to charter management organizations.

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

Connecticut law requires charter schools to be organized as a nonprofit entities and operated independently of any local or regional board of education in accordance with the terms of their charters.

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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

Connecticut law requires charter schools to provide open enrollment to any student in the state. It also requires charters to determine enrollment by lottery. It allows charter schools to give preference to siblings.

The law allows the governing council of a state or local charter school to apply to the state board of education for a waiver of the requirements of the enrollment lottery, provided such state or local charter school has as its primary purpose the establishment of education programs designed to serve one or more of the following populations: students with a history of behavioral and social difficulties; students identified as requiring special education; students who are English language learners; or students of a single gender.

The law also provides that an enrollment lottery shall not be held for a local charter school that is established at a school that is among the schools with a percentage equal to or less than five per cent when all schools are ranked highest to lowest in school performance index scores.

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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

Instead of providing charters with automatic exemptions from most state and district laws and regulations, Connecticut law allows a charter school application to include, or a charter school to file, requests to waive provisions of the general statutes and regulations that are within the jurisdiction of the state board of education.

Connecticut law requires at least 50% of a charter school's teachers to be certified, and the others must have at least alternative or temporary certification and be working toward standard certification. Connecticut law also creates the charter school educator permit, which can be granted to a charter teacher or administrator that lacks state certification, provided they: pass the state reading, writing, and math competency test for teacher certification candidates or meet state board criteria for a testing waiver; pass the same state test as a teacher or administrator certification candidate seeking to work in the same subject or administrative area; and demonstrate effectiveness as a teacher or school administrator, as appropriate.

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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

Connecticut law allows a state charter school’s teachers to negotiate as a separate unit within the charter school governing council or work independently. It requires a local charter school’s teachers to be covered by the school district collective bargaining agreement, but such agreement may be modified by a majority of a charter school’s teachers and the charter schools’ governing council.

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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

Connecticut law prohibits these arrangements.

0

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

Connecticut law is silent about charter eligibility and access. Although state 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

Connecticut law requires charter schools to be connected to each student’s district of residence LEA for purposes of special education. It requires special education funds to go to the LEA of residence, which is responsible for evaluation and services.

In reference to high cost, low-incident cases, statute provides that the LEA pay the charter school, on a quarterly basis, an amount equal to the difference between the reasonable cost of educating high cost students and the amount received via a formula by the state charter school.

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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

For local charter schools, state law provides that the local or regional board of education of the school district in which the local charter school is located is responsible for the financial support of such local charter school at a level that is at least equal to the product of the per pupil cost for the prior fiscal year, less the reimbursement pursuant to state law for the current fiscal year, and the number of students attending such local charter school in the current fiscal year.

For state charter schools, Connecticut law provides that the funding comes directly from a separate state appropriation, with no local contribution. The annual per-pupil amount is specified in statute as follows: $10,500 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, and $11,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015 and each fiscal year thereafter.

Connecticut law provides that charter schools are eligible for additional categorical federal and state funds.

For transportation, Connecticut law provides that the school district in which the charter school is located must provide transportation services for charter students who reside in that district unless the charter school makes other arrangements for such transportation. It also allows school districts to provide transportation for those residing outside the district and be reimbursed for the reasonable costs of such transportation.

In a national study of charter school funding (Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists, 2010), Connecticut charter schools were receiving on average $12,631 per pupil, while traditional public schools would have received $16,476 for those students. As a result, the state's charter schools were receiving $3,845 per pupil - or 23.3% - 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 exist both for operational and capital funding (see component #19 for information on capital issues). Recent funding changes will reduce this gap.

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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

Connecticut law has provided $20 million in bond financing to support charter school facilities, dispersed through a competitive application process. In addition, Connecticut law created a pilot to provide $25 million in bond financing for one charter school, which is similar to that available for traditional districts (whereby the state covers 80% and other sources cover 20%).

Connecticut law allows a charter school to apply for low-interest loans from the Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority.

Connecticut law also creates incentives for school districts to enter into voluntary agreements with high performing charter schools to provide material support to such schools, such as the use of a district facility. By doing so, districts are given permission to count the performance of the charter school students as part of the district for the purposes of No Child Left Behind compliance.

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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

Connecticut law provides that charter school teachers hired prior to July 1, 2010 may participate in the state teacher retirement system, while it requires that those hired after July 1, 2010 must participate in the system.

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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).