Measuring Up

 



Delaware

TOTAL SCORE:
146 out of 228

Rank: 17 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  1995
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  21 
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  10,370

Delaware enacted a major piece of charter school legislation in 2013. This legislation created performance frameworks as part of charter contracts, created charter renewal processes, and provided facilities support.

As a result, Delaware’s score increased from 127 points in 2013 to 146 points this year.  The score changed because of a change in our methodology for Component #4 (Authorizer and Overall Program Accountability System Required) and changes in state policies for Component #7 (Performance-Based Charter Contracts Required), Component #9 (Clear Processes for Renewal, Nonrenewal, and Revocation Decisions), and Component #19 (Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities). Its ranking went from #21 to #17.

Delaware’s law still needs improvement in several areas including ensuring adequate authorizing funding and ensuring equitable operational funding.

Do Delaware's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Delaware's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Delaware law does not place any caps on the number of charter schools. Delaware law contains a provision allowing local school boards to refuse to accept applications in any given year, which is a potential deterrent for applicants. The law does not contain a similar provision for the state department of education.

12

1A. No limits are placed on the number of public charter schools or students (and no geographic limits).

1B. If caps exist, adequate room for growth.

N/A

2. A Variety of Public Charter Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Delaware allows new start-ups and public school conversions, but not virtual schools.

4

2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Delaware law requires applicants for public school conversions to apply to local school boards and applicants for new start-ups to apply to either local school boards or the state department of education with assent from the state secretary of education and the state board of education. There is some authorizing activity by the state department of education but little activity by local school boards.

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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 department of education as an authorizer, they can do so at any time. In addition, the ability of the state department of education to continue authorizing can be removed by the legislature and governor (the entities that gave it that authority).

Delaware law requires the state department of education to prepare a report for the governor and the general assembly on the success or failure of charter schools and propose changes in state law necessary to improve or change the charter school program. It requires such report to contain a section comparing the per student expenditures of charter schools, considering all sources of such expenditures, with those of other public schools. It also requires the report to contain the secretary of education’s analysis of, recommendations relating to, and proposed changes relating to Delaware education laws in light of the content of annual reports submitted by charter schools and the secretary’s assessment of specific opportunities and barriers relating to the implementation of charter schools’ innovations in the broader Delaware public education school system.

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

6

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

Delaware law includes none of the model law's provisions for adequate authorizer funding.

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

Delaware law contains application elements for all schools. Delaware law contains additional application elements specific to conversion schools.

Delaware law allows highly successful charter school operators to submit an application to operate a charter school at the site of and serving students currently attending a charter school whose charter has been revoked, has not been renewed, or whose charter is on formal review and whose board has agreed to abandon their charter. If approved, the law allows these schools to open more quickly than the standard process.

Delaware law requires public hearings during the review and decision-making processes.

Delaware law provides that applicants seeking a charter from the state department of education that have submitted an application deemed by the department sufficient to receive a full review shall be offered an opportunity for an interview in support of the application. A similar provision does not exist for applicants seeking charters from local school districts.

The law requires the authorizer to hold a public hearing to decide the appropriate action regarding the application. Delaware regulation calls for a preliminary and final report that is made public to be presented to each applicant, which details in writing the comments of the committee concerning the application.

The law does not include additional application elements specific when using educational service providers and does not require authorizers to issue requests for proposals that include application requirements and approval criteria.

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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.

N/A

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

Upon approval of a charter school application, the law requires the state department of education to present applicants seeking a charter from the state with a charter contract that clearly defines the respective roles, powers, and responsibilities of the school and the approving authority and incorporates the provisions of the performance agreement entered into between the charter school and its approving authority pursuant to state regulations. The law provides that other approving authorities may choose to present applications they approve with such a charter contract. The law also states that where a charter contract is utilized, both the school and the approving authority shall execute the charter contract.

For state-authorized pubic charter schools, Delaware regulation provides that following charter approval, but not later than a date established by the state department of education, the applicant must enter into a performance agreement approved by the state department of education with the assent of the state board of education, which shall address the organizational, academic and financial performance expectations of the applicant during the term of the charter. The regulations require the state department of education, with the assent of the state board of education, to establish and publish a performance framework that shall be used to assess the school’s compliance with its performance agreement.

For an applicant proposing to serve students at risk of academic failure, regulations provide that the school’s performance agreement shall specify what, if any, portion of the performance framework shall or shall not apply to the school or whether the performance framework shall be modified to more appropriately measure the performance of the school.

The above provisions do not apply to charters authorized by local school boards.

Delaware law provides an initial term of four operating years.

Laws and regulations do not provide that charter contracts define the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.

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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.

N/A

8. Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Delaware regulation requires the state department of education to conduct annual performance reviews of state-authorized charters based on a performance framework and to provide the results of the performance review to the school. This provision does not apply to charter schools authorized by local school boards.

Delaware law requires charter schools to undergo annual financial audits. It also provides that when a charter school knows or reasonably should know that it has or will become unable to pay in full its projected expenses as they fall due, the school must immediately so advise the state department of education and must provide the state department with all financial information. The law provides that charter schools that fail to do so must be placed on formal review.

Delaware law gives authorizers authority to conduct or require oversight activities, limited to the approval criteria for a charter school outlined in state law.

Delaware law requires charter schools to submit annual performance reports. The law provides that the state department of education must determine content of annual reports, in addition to progress meeting performance goals and standards and a financial statement.

Delaware law allows an authorizer to notify a charter of potential violations and submit the charter to formal review to determine whether the charter school is violating the terms of its charter and whether to order remedial measures.

Delaware law allows an authorizer to place a school on a probationary status subject to terms determined by the approving authority that are directly relevant to the violation or violations.

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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

Delaware law requires an authorizer to review the performance of the charter school and determine its satisfactory compliance with the law and its charter four years after a charter school has opened and every five years thereafter.

The law requires the approving authority to issue a charter school renewal report and charter renewal application guidance to any charter school whose charter will expire the following year. It requires the renewal report to summarize the charter school’s performance record to date, based on the data required by law and the charter contract and provide notice of any weaknesses or concerns perceived by the approving authority concerning the charter school that may jeopardize its position in seeking renewal if not timely rectified. The law provides the charter school with 10 working days to respond to the renewal report and submit any corrections or clarifications for the report.

The law provides that the renewal process shall, at a minimum, provide an opportunity for the charter school to: present additional evidence, beyond the data contained in the renewal report, supporting its case for charter renewal describe improvements undertaken or planned for the school; and detail the school’s plans for the next charter term.

The law requires the renewal application guidance to include the criteria that will guide the approving authority’s renewal decisions. It requires the renewal determinations by the state department of education to be based on its performance framework, the terms set forth in the charter contract, and shall take account of the school’s performance agreement with the approving authority. The law allows other approving authorities to choose to adopt the criteria utilized by the department. The law requires each approving authority to develop a rubric based on its criteria for evaluating renewal applications and provide this rubric to applicants as part of the renewal application guidance.

Delaware law requires the governing board of a charter school seeking renewal to submit a renewal application to the approving authority pursuant to the renewal application guidance issued by the approving authority.

Delaware regulation provides that state-authorized charters shall be renewed only if the school receives a satisfactory performance review, with the performance reviews conducted by the state department of education using the performance framework approved by the state department with the assent of the state board of education. This provision does not apply to charter schools authorized by local school boards.

Delaware law allows an authorizer to revoke a charter contract if the charter school, or its representatives, commits a material fraud on the approving authority or misappropriates federal, state, or local funds, fails to comply with its charter or fails to satisfy, in its operation of the school, its approval criteria.

The law provides that a charter school may be renewed for successive five-year terms of duration and allows an approving authority to grant renewal with specific conditions for necessary improvements to a charter school. Where a charter school has demonstrated an outstanding record of performance, the law allows an approving authority to grant it a renewal term of ten years. The law provides that any charter school receiving such an extended renewal term shall, at the midpoint of the ten-year charter, be subject to an annual performance and program evaluation that includes academic, financial, and operations data that looks back to all of the years of the charter up to that point. If, upon this evaluation, the approving authority determines that the charter school’s level of performance is deficient by renewal standards, the law allows the approving authority to initiate the formal renewal and non-renewal process.

It requires the authorizer to notify the school of any violations and commence a formal evaluation. Delaware law allows the charter school to comment on the initial report of alleged violations at a minimum of 15 days prior to final review by the authorizer. If grounds exist for further investigation, the law requires the authorizer to hold a public hearing and allow the charter to respond to the alleged violations within the report.

The law requires the authorizer to hold a public hearing to decide the appropriate action regarding the charter. Regulation calls for a written final report in which comments related to actions and concerns are made public.

Prior to any charter school closure decision, the law requires an approving authority to have developed and utilize a charter school closure protocol to ensure timely notification to parents, orderly transition of students and student records to new schools, and proper disposition of school funds, property, and assets in accordance with the requirements of the state’s charter school law and other applicable laws. It requires the protocol to specify tasks, timelines, and responsible parties, including delineating the respective duties of the school and the approving authority. In the event of a charter school closure for any reason, the law requires the approving authority to oversee and work with the closing school to ensure a smooth and orderly closure and transition for students and parents, as guided by the closure protocol.

16

9A. Authorizer must issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.

9B. Schools seeking renewal must apply for it.

9C. Authorizers must issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.

9D. Clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.

9E. Authorizers must ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract (in accordance with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract).

9F. Authorizer authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

9G. Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or non-renewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.

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

9I. All charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing.

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

10. Educational Service Providers (ESPs) Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Delaware law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for educational service providers. Delaware law allows contracting with all types of educational service providers but there are no statutory provisions guiding any charter application requirements for educational service providers, performance contracts between the school and service provider, authorizer approval of contracts, school governing boards operating completely independent of any educational service provider, and conflicts of interest.

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

Delaware law includes provisions regarding the legal status, the corporate status, and the powers of a charter school. These provisions make clear that charter schools are fiscally and legally autonomous entities with independent governing boards.

12

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

Delaware law requires charter schools to provide open enrollment to any student in the state.

Delaware law requires charter schools to conduct a lottery in the case of over-enrollment.

Delaware law allows, but does not require, charter schools to give preferences in student admissions to siblings of students currently enrolled at the school, to students attending an existing public school converted to charter status, and to children of a school's founders, so long as they constitute no more than 5% of the school's total student population.

Delaware law allows start-up charters to give the following types of preferences in student admissions as long as the school has described its preferences in the school's charter: students residing within a five-mile radius of the school; students residing within the regular school district in which the school is located; students who have a specific interest in the school's teaching methods, philosophy, or educational focus; students who are at risk of academic failure; and children of persons employed on a permanent basis for at least 30 hours per week during the school year by the charter school.

6

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

Delaware law provides that charter schools are exempt from all provisions of the state's education code and all school district regulations, except as specified in the state's charter school law. In practice, the state does not provide charters with such extensive exemptions. For example, the state legislature requires alignment of charter curriculum with the recommended state curriculum in statutes outside of the charter law.

Delaware law requires charter teachers to be certified with certain exceptions.

9

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

Delaware law provides that charter schools are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

12

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

Delaware law allows independent public charter school boards to hold multiple charter contracts with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school in the following situation: highly successful charter school operators that submit an application to operate a charter school at the site of and serving students currently attending a charter school whose charter has been revoked, has not been renewed, or whose charter is on formal review and whose board has agreed to abandon their charter. If approved, the law allows these schools to open more quickly than the standard process.

8

15A. Oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

15B. Hold multiple charter contracts with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

16. Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities Eligibility and Access

weight = 1 | Possible total = 4

Delaware law is silent about charter eligibility and access.

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

Delaware law does not provide clarity regarding which entity is the LEA responsible for providing special education services. In practice, the charter school is the LEA.

Delaware law provides charter schools with access to special support funded by the state for low incident high cost service through full access to the state's Interagency Collaborative Team.

4

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

Delaware law provides that charter schools are funded through the same funding formula used for districts, with some exceptions.

Delaware law provides funding for charter school transportation at 75% of the average cost per student for transporting students within the vocational district in which the charter school is located.

In a national study of charter school funding (Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists, 2010), Delaware charter schools were receiving on average $9,990 per pupil, while traditional public schools would have received $13,655 for those students. As a result, the state's charter schools were receiving $3,665 per pupil - or 26.8% - less than what the traditional public schools would have received for those students. This figure includes all sources of funding, and analysis reveals continued inequities for operational, categorical, and capital funding (see component #19 for information on capital issues).

4

18A. Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.

18B. Equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding, and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.

18C. Funding for transportation similar to school districts.

19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Delaware law requires the state department of education to administer a performance fund for charter schools, to be known as the “Charter School Performance Fund.” It requires the department to establish threshold eligibility requirements for applicants desiring to apply for funding, which shall include but not be limited to a proven track record of success, as measured by a performance framework established by the charter school’s authorizer or comparable measures as defined by the department. It also requires the department to establish criteria to evaluate applications for funding, which shall include but not be limited to the availability of supplemental funding from non-State sources at a ratio to be determined by the department. The law requires the department to prioritize those applications from applicants that have developed high-quality plans for start-up or expansion or serve high-need students, as defined by the department. The law provides that the fund shall be subject to appropriation and shall not exceed $5 million annually. In 2013, the state appropriated $2 million to this fund.

Delaware law provides that charter schools are eligible to access tax-exempt bond financing through the Delaware Economic Development Authority and have access to the tax-exempt bond market through the county in which they reside. It also provides that charter schools have the same access to conduit bond financing as any other non-profit organization and that no state or local government unit may impose any condition or restriction on a charter school’s approval solely because the applicant is a public charter school.

The law provides that the state shall fund minor capital improvements at charter schools in the same manner as the state funds such improvements at vocational technical school districts.
Delaware law provides that school districts must make unused buildings or space in buildings available for charter schools and must bargain in good faith over the cost of rent, services, and maintenance related to such space.

Delaware law requires the state department of education and state department of administrative services to publish a list of all vacant and unused buildings and portions of buildings owned by the state or school districts that may be suitable for charter schools.

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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

Delaware law provides access to relevant employee retirement systems, but does not require participation.

8

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).