Measuring Up

 



Connecticut

TOTAL SCORE:
126 out of 240

Rank: 33 out of 44

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted: 1996
Estimated Number of Charter Schools in 2016-17: 24 
Estimated Number of Charter School Students in 2016-17: 9,700

Connecticut’s law contains significant restrictions on growth, includes a single authorizer, and provides inadequate autonomy, insufficient accountability, and inequitable funding to charter public schools.

Much improvement is still needed in Connecticut’s charter school law, including lifting its remaining restrictions on growth, providing additional authorizing options, ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities, and strengthening accountability for full-time virtual charter schools.

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 allows 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 numeric or geographic limits are placed on the number of charter schools or students.

1B. If caps exist, there is room for growth.

2. A Variety of Charter Public 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 charter schools are conversions of a district public school or part of a district 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.

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2A. New startups.

2B. Public school conversions.

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. It also provides that the state board may grant initial certificates of approval for charters for local and state charter schools. Upon granting an initial certificate of approval for a charter, the state board must submit a copy of the certificate and a summary of the comments made at a required public hearing to the joint standing committees of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to education and appropriations and the budgets of state agencies. The law provides that the General Assembly may appropriate funds to the Department of Education for the purposes of providing funds to local and state charter schools. If such funds are appropriated, an initial certificate of approval for a charter shall be effective and deemed a charter as of July 1st of the fiscal year for which such funds are appropriated. There are currently 24 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.

The law does not require authorizer submission of an annual report that summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio.

12

4A. Registration process for school boards to affirm their interest in authorizing.

N/A

4B. Application process for other eligible authorizing entities (except a state charter schools commission).

N/A

4C. Authorizer submission of annual report.

4D. The ability for the state to conduct a review of an authorizer’s performance.

4E. The ability for the state to sanction an authorizer for poor performance, including suspending an authorizer’s authority to approve new schools.

4F. Periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

5. Adequate Authorizer Funding

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Connecticut law does not include any of the model law's provisions for adequate authorizer funding.

0

5A. A uniform statewide formula that guarantees annual authorizer funding that is not subject to annual legislative appropriations.

5B. Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.

5C. Separate contract for any services purchased from an authorizer by a school.

5D. 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 and educational service providers.

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 using educational service providers.

6D. Additional application elements specific to replications.

6E. Requirement for thorough evaluation of each application, including an in-person interview and a public meeting.

6F. Application approval criteria.

6G. 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 does requires charter contracts to be created as a separate document from the application, to define the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer, and to define academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged based on a performance framework.

Connecticut law provides that a charter may be granted for a period of up to five years.

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7A. With such contracts being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer.

7B. With such contracts defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.

7C. With such contracts defining academic, financial, and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged based on a performance framework.

7D. With such contracts providing an initial term of five operating years.

8. Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

State law requires charter schools to submit an annual strategic school profile report to the state commissioner of education as well as an annual report on the school’s progress in meeting the academic and organizational performance goals set forth in the charter, including a description of 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 requires each charter management organization or, if there is no charter management organization associated with a school, the governing council of such charter school, to submit annually to the State Commissioner of Education a certified audit statement of all revenues from public and private sources and expenditures related to such organization's function as a charter management organization in this state or to such council's function as a governing council of a state or local charter school in this state, and a complete copy of such organization's or council's most recently completed Internal Revenue Service form 990, including all parts and schedules, other than Schedule B of such form.

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. Required annual school performance reports.

8B. Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., generally accepted accounting principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).

8C. Authorizer authority to conduct oversight activities.

8D. Authorizer notification to its schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.

8E. Authorizer authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.

8F. Authorizer may not request duplicative data submission from its charter schools and may not use performance framework to create cumbersome reporting requirements.

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; 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; or the governing council of the school has not provided evidence that such council has initiated substantive communication with the local or regional board of education of the town in which the school is located to share student learning practices and experiences.

Connecticut law also provides that the state board of education may, but is not required to, 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.

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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. Ability to have a differentiated process for renewal of high-performing charter schools.

9E. Authorizers must use clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.

9F. 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.

9G. Requirement that authorizers close chronically low-performing charter schools unless exceptional circumstances exist.

9H. Authorizers must have the authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

9I. Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or nonrenewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.

9J. Authorizers must provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions (e.g., public hearing, submission of evidence).

9K. All charter renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions must be made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for nonrenewals and revocations in writing.

9L. Authorizers must have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.

9M. Any transfer of charter contracts from one authorizer to another are only allowed if they are approved by the state.

N/A

10. Transparency Regarding Educational Service Providers (ESPs) Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Connecticut law provides that the governing council of a charter school may only enter into a contract for whole school management services with a non-profit charter management organization.

Connecticut law requires that applications include evidence of educational service provider success with similar populations, but it does not require that applications include evidence of the provider’s capacity for growth.

The law specifies that an application of a charter school which intends to contract with an ESP that must detail the roles and responsibilities of the charter board, the staff of the schools, and the ESP; the scope and services to be provided by the ESP; the performance evaluation measures and timelines; the compensation structure including all fees to be paid to the ESP; methods of contract oversight and enforcement; conditions for renewal and termination of contract; and evidence of compliance with all provisions of law.

The law also requires an annual audited statement of all revenues from public and private sources and expenditures related to such ESP’s function with the school, as well criminal background checks for all ESP contractors performs a service involving direct student contact.

Connecticut law contains provisions requiring authorizer approval of any performance contracts between schools and educational service providers, ensuring school governing boards operate as entities legally and fiscally independent of any educational service provider, and dealing with existing and potential conflicts of interest between the school and the provider. It is silent on any prohibition of individuals compensated by an ESP serving on the charter board.

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10A. All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and nonprofit) are 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, 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 charter school board and the ESP, with such contract approved by the school’s authorizer.

10D. School governing boards operate as entities completely independent of any ESP, individuals compensated by an ESP are prohibited from serving as voting members on such boards, and existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.

10E. Provides that charter school governing boards must have access to ESP records necessary to oversee the ESP contract.

10F. An ESP must annually provide information to its charter school governing board on how that ESP spends public funding it receives when the ESP is performing a public function under applicable state law.

10G. Requires that similar criminal history record checks and fingerprinting requirements applicable to other public schools shall also be mandatory for on-site employees of ESPs who regularly come into contact with students.

11. Fiscally and Legally Autonomous Schools with Independent Charter Public School Boards

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Connecticut law requires charter schools to be organized as 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. Independent school governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

12. Clear Student 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 and allows (but does not require) charter schools to give preference to siblings. It also notes that admissions cannot discriminate on the basis of disability, athletic performance or proficiency in the English language.

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. Anti-discrimination provisions regarding admissions.

12C. Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions and for prior-year students within charter schools.

12D. Lottery requirements.

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.

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

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 school’s governing council.

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14A. Charter schools authorized by nonlocal board authorizers are exempt from participation in any district 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. An independent charter school board may oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

15B. An independent charter school board may 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 extracurricular and interscholastic activities available to noncharter public school students and employees.

16B. Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extracurricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at noncharter public schools.

17. Clear Provisions Regarding 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. It notes that charter schools are eligible to the same extent as boards of education for any special education grants and funding.

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 the flow of federal, state, and local special education funds to the designated LEA.

17C. 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).

17D. Clarity that charter schools have access to all regional and state services and supports available to traditional districts.

18. Equitable Operational Funding and Equal Access to All State and Federal Categorical Funding

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Connecticut law provides that the state board may grant initial certificates of approval for charters for local and state charter schools. Upon granting an initial certificate of approval for a charter, the state board must submit a copy of the certificate and a summary of the comments made at a required public hearing to the joint standing committees of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to education and appropriations and the budgets of state agencies. The law provides that the General Assembly may appropriate funds to the Department of Education for the purposes of providing funds to local and state charter schools. If such funds are appropriated, an initial certificate of approval for a charter shall be effective and deemed a charter as of July 1st of the fiscal year for which such funds are appropriated.

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: $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 (University of Arkansas, Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists, 2014), Connecticut charter schools were receiving on average $11,322 per pupil in public funds, while district public schools would have received $18,527 for those students. As a result, the state's charter schools were receiving $7,205 per pupil - or 38.8% - less than what the district 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).

0

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.

18D. Annual report offering district and charter public school funding comparisons and including annual recommendations to the legislature for any needed equity enhancements.

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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Facilities Funding

19A. A per-pupil facilities allowance that annually reflects actual average district capital costs.

19B. A state grant program for charter school facilities.

19C. Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to noncharter public schools.


Access to Public Space

19D. A requirement for districts to provide school district space or funding to charter schools if the majority of that school’s students reside in that district.

19E. Right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed, unused, or underused public school facility or property.


Access to Financing Tools

19F. A state loan program for charter school facilities.

19G. Equal access to tax-exempt bonding authorities or allowing charter schools to have their own bonding authority.

19H. Pledging the moral obligation of the state to help charter schools obtain more favorable bond financing terms.

19I. The creation and funding of a state charter school debt reserve fund.

19J. The inclusion of charter schools in school district bonding and mill levy requests.

19K. A mechanism to provide credit enhancement for charter school facilities.


Other

19L. Charter schools allowed to contract at or below fair market value with a school district, a college or university, or any other public or for-profit or nonprofit private entity for the use of facility for a school building.

19M. Certain entities allowed to provide space to charter schools within their facilities under their preexisting zoning and land use designations.

19N. Charter school facilities exempt from ad valorem taxes and other assessment fees not applicable to other public schools.

20. Access to Relevant Employee Retirement Systems

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

State 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).

21. Full-Time Virtual Charter School Provisions (if such schools allowed by state)

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Connecticut law does not contain any of the model law’s provisions for full-time virtual charter schools.

0

21A. An authorizing structure whereby full-time virtual charter schools that serve students from more than one district may be approved only by an authorizer with statewide chartering jurisdiction and authority, full-time virtual charter schools that serve students from one school district may be authorized by that school district, and a cap is placed on the total amount of funding that an authorizer may withhold from a full-time virtual charter school.

21B. Legally permissible criteria and processes for enrollment based on the existence of supports needed for student success.

21C. Enrollment level provisions that establish maximum enrollment levels for each year of a charter contract, with any increases in enrollment from one year to the next based on whether the school meets its performance requirements.

21D. Accountability provisions that include virtual-specific goals regarding student enrollment, attendance, engagement, achievement, truancy, and attrition.

21E. Funding levels per student based on costs proposed and justified by the operators.

21F. Performance-based funding whereby full-time virtual charter schools are funded via a performance-based funding system based on meeting the accountability performance provisions.