Measuring Up

 



Minnesota

TOTAL SCORE:
174 out of 228

Rank: 1 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  1991
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  149
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  44,100

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

Minnesota’s score increased from 172 points in 2013 to 174 points this year.  The score changed because of further clarification about the specific policies for Component #16 (Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities Eligibility and Access).  Its ranking stayed at #1.

One potential area of improvement in Minnesota’s law is providing equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

Do Minnesota's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Minnesota's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

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

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

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

N/A

2. A Variety of Public Charter Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

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

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2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Minnesota law allows the following types of entities to serve as authorizers: local school boards, intermediate school boards, cooperatives, charitable nonprofit organizations that meet certain criteria, private colleges, public postsecondary institutions, and single-purpose authorizers that are charitable, non-sectarian entities created just to authorizer charter schools. There is considerable authorizing activity by these entities.

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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

Minnesota law details a comprehensive authorizer approval and review process. It requires all potential authorizers to submit an application to the state commissioner of education, detailing the applicant’s ability to implement the procedures and satisfy the criteria for chartering a school and including information on the authorizer’s capacity and infrastructure, application criteria and process, contracting process, on-going oversight and evaluation processes, and renewal criteria and processes.

Minnesota law requires authorizers to annually submit a statement of income and expenditures related to authorizing activities to the state commissioner and its charter schools. It also requires the state commissioner to establish specifications for an authorizer’s annual public report that is part of the system to evaluate authorizer performance and requires the report to at least include key indicators of school academic, operational, and financial performance.

Following approval by the state commissioner to be an authorizer, Minnesota law requires each potential authorizer to submit an affidavit for approval by the commissioner for each individual school an authorizer seeks to charter. It requires each affidavit to contain details regarding the proposed school’s operations and student performance expectations, as well as the process the authorizer will use to provide ongoing oversight and to make decisions regarding the renewal or termination of the school’s charter.

Minnesota law requires the state commissioner to review each authorizer’s performance at least every five years and allows the state commissioner to subject the authorizer to corrective actions as needed, including the termination of contracts with schools it has authorized. As part of that review, the law requires the state department of education to comment on each authorizer’s evaluation process for providing formal written evaluation of their school’s performance before renewal of a charter contract.

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

4B. Application process for other eligible authorizing entities.

4C. Authorizer submission of annual report, which summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio.

4D. A regular review process by authorizer oversight body.

4E. Authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools.

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

5. Adequate Authorizer Funding

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Minnesota law allows authorizers to charge a fee. It provides that the fee that an authorizer may annually assess is the greater of: the basic formula allowance for that year; or the lesser of: the maximum fee factor times the basic formula allowance for that year; or the fee factor times the basic formula allowance for that year times the charter school's adjusted pupil units for that year. The fee factor equals .015. The maximum fee factor equals 4.0.

For the preoperational planning period, after a school is chartered, the law allows an authorizer to assess a charter school a fee equal to the basic formula allowance.

Minnesota law requires authorizers to annually submit a statement of income and expenditures related to authorizing activities to the state commissioner and its charter schools.

Statute states that the granting or renewal of a charter by an authorizer cannot be contingent on the school being required to contract, lease, or purchase services from the authorizer. It also provides that any potential contract, lease, or purchase of service by a charter school from an authorizer must be disclosed to the state commissioner, accepted through an open bidding process, and be a separate contract from the charter contract. There are also further requirements in law if the contract is for management or financial services.

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5A. Adequate funding from authorizing fees (or other sources).

5B. Guaranteed funding from authorizing fees (or from sources not subject to annual legislative appropriations).

5C. Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.

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

5E. Prohibition on authorizers requiring schools to purchase services from them.

6. Transparent Charter Application, Review, and Decisionmaking Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

The law contains application elements for all schools and specific additional requirements for conversion schools.

A virtual charter school must follow the same statutory provisions, including approval by the state commissioner, as all other public school districts wishing to operate an online program or school. Thus, such charter schools must go through two sets of approvals, one for being a charter school and one for operating an online program or an online school.

The state’s authorizer approval process requires authorizers to demonstrate how they will evaluate any educational service provider arrangements proposed within a school’s application. It does not contain additional application elements specific to replications.

Within their affidavit sent to the state commissioner for each proposed charter school, Minnesota law requires authorizers to detail information related to the application and review process that the authorizer will use to make decisions regarding the granting of charters as well as their application requirements covering elements listed in statute and an evaluation plan for the proposed schools including criteria for evaluating educational, organization, and fiscal plans.

Following approval by the state commissioner to be an authorizer, Minnesota law requires each potential authorizer to submit an affidavit for approval by the commissioner for each individual school an authorizer seeks to charter. It requires each affidavit to contain details regarding the proposed school’s operations and student performance expectations, as well as the process the authorizer will use to provide ongoing oversight and to make decisions regarding the renewal or termination of the school’s charter.

The law does not require an in-person interview and a public meeting.

Statute requires that traditional school district authorizers must act on chartering decisions at public meetings. It does not require other authorizers to do so. It also 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

Per statute, a written contract is required as signed by the authorizer and the charter school’s board of directors with details including a declaration that the charter school will carry out the primary purpose for charter schools in state law and how the school will report its implementation of the primary purpose, a declaration of the additional purpose or purposes for charter schools in state law that the school intends to carry out and how the school will report its implementation of those purposes, the operations of the school, specific outcomes students are to achieve, the criteria, processes, and procedures that the authorizer will use to monitor and evaluate the fiscal, operational, and academic performance consistent with state law, for contract renewal the formal written performance evaluation of the school that is a prerequisite for reviewing a charter contract under state law, the specific conditions for contract renewal that identify performance under the primary purpose for charter schools in state law as the most important factor in determining contract renewal, the additional purposes for charter schools in state law related performance obligations contained in the charter contract as additional factors in determining contract renewal, and the plan for the orderly closing of a school, if a charter is terminated.

Minnesota law requires the initial contract may be for up to five years.

A virtual charter school must follow the same statutory provisions, including approval by the state commissioner, as all other public school districts wishing to operate an online program or school. Thus, such charter schools must go through two sets of approvals, one for being a charter school and one for operating an online program or an online school. However, the law does not require charter contracts to include requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools.

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

7B. Defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.

7C. Defining academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged, based on a performance framework that includes measures and metrics for, at a minimum, student academic proficiency and growth, achievement gaps, attendance, recurrent enrollment, postsecondary readiness (high schools), financial performance, and board stewardship (including compliance).

7D. Providing an initial term of five operating years (or a longer term with periodic high-stakes reviews.

7E. Including requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools, if applicable.

8. Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

The state department of education collects student outcome data on the state assessments for all school districts and charter schools. As such data is publicly available, the state does not require authorizers to collect it.

Minnesota law also provides that charter schools are subject to the same financial audit procedures and requirements as all districts, with annual audit results submitted to the state commissioner and their authorizer.

Minnesota law requires authorizers to detail for state commissioner approval their process for ongoing oversight of the school consistent with the contract expectations, which must include the criteria, processes, and procedures that the authorizer will use for ongoing oversight of operational, financial, and academic performance.

While the law does not require authorizers to produce and publish annual school performance reports aligned with the performance framework set forth in the charter as provided in the model law, statute requires charter schools to publish a fairly detailed annual report covering enrollment, student attrition, governance, staffing, finances, academic performance, innovative practices, and future plans. It requires this report to be distributed to its authorizer, school employees, and parents as well as posted on the schools’ websites.

Statute details causes and processes for nonrenewal or termination, but does not specifically require authorizers to notify their schools of concerns until renewal time nor does it give them the ability to impose corrective actions short of revocation. However, the law has been interpreted to allow authorizers to ask for corrective actions short of revocation. In addition, the law gives the state commissioner the authority to reduce state aid if a school fails to correct a violation of law.

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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

Minnesota law requires authorizers to provide a formal written evaluation of each school’s performance before renewal of its contract.

Statute does not require a formal renewal application, but instead requires authorizers to detail for state commissioner approval their process for making decisions regarding the renewal or termination of a school’s charter based on evidence that demonstrate the academic, organization, and financial competency of the school, including its success in increasing student achievement and meeting the goals of the charter school agreement. It also requires such items to be detailed in the actual charter school contract, including the performance evaluation that is a prerequisite for renewing a charter contract. The law does not require authorizers to provide an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.

Minnesota law provides that charter renewals may be made for up to five years.

Minnesota law requires the authorizer to provide timely notification of potential revocation to the school’s board of directors in writing, including the grounds for the proposed action. It allows the school to request an informal hearing.

Statute requires that traditional school district authorizers must act on chartering decisions at public meetings. It does not require other authorizers to do so.

Minnesota law requires each charter contract to have detailed provisions regarding what would happen if the school closed, including student notification and transfer and financial issues. There are also specific provisions in statute regarding the transfer of records and the disposition of property and assets.

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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

Minnesota law specifies that charters may contract with outside entities to manage all or some aspects of the school.

The state department authorizer application and approval process requires all authorizers to have evaluation criteria for any educational service provider arrangements, but it does not specify the specific criteria.

The law requires the charter contract to include the terms of the school operations, including any educational service provider arrangements.

Minnesota law requires charter schools’ annual audits to include a copy of all charter school agreements for corporate management services.

The law prohibits an individual from serving as a member of the charter school board of directors if the individual, an immediate family member, or the individual's partner is a full or part owner or a principal with a for-profit or nonprofit entity or independent contractor with whom the charter school contracts, directly or indirectly, for professional services, goods, or facilities. The law prohibits an individual from serving as a board member if an immediate family member is an employee of the school. The law provides that a violation of this prohibition renders a contract voidable at the option of the commissioner or the charter school board of directors and that a member of a charter school board of directors who violates this prohibition is individually liable to the charter school for any damage caused by the violation. The law prohibits authorizers from serving on the boards of their schools.

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10A. All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and non-profit) explicitly allowed to operate all or parts of schools.

10B. The charter application requires 1) performance data for all current and past schools operated by the ESP, including documentation of academic achievement and (if applicable) school management success; and 2) explanation and evidence of the ESP’s capacity for successful growth while maintaining quality in existing schools.

10C. A performance contract is required between the independent public charter school board and the ESP, setting forth material terms including but not limited to: performance evaluation measures; methods of contract oversight and enforcement by the charter school board; compensation structure and all fees to be paid to the ESP; and conditions for contract renewal and termination.

10D. The material terms of the ESP performance contract must be approved by the authorizer prior to charter approval.

10E. School governing boards operating as entities completely independent of any educational service provider (e.g., must retain independent oversight authority of their charter schools, and cannot give away their authority via contract).

10F. Existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.

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

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Minnesota law provides that charter schools are fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent school boards and their own LEAs. Statute includes conflict of interest provisions regarding employees, agents, and board members of authorizers serving on any charter school’s board of directors.

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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

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

Minnesota law requires a random selection lottery process to be used if interest exceeds capacity.

Minnesota law provides that enrollment performances must be given to siblings of enrolled pupils and any foster children of enrolled pupil’s parents. While the law does not explicitly provide enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions and prior year students within chartered schools, once a student is enrolled in a school in Minnesota, the law provides that they are enrolled as students until they are withdrawn.

Minnesota law allows charter schools to give preference for children of the school’s staff, but not for board members (unless they are a parent of a student already enrolled in the school). It also does not provide a maximum percentage of the school’s total student population for these students.

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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

Minnesota law provides that charter schools are exempt from all statutes and rules applicable to traditional public schools or districts unless a statute or rule is made specifically applicable to a charter school or is included in the charter school law.

Minnesota law does not exempt charter schools from state teaching license requirements.

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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

Minnesota law provides that a charter school’s teachers are at will employees and may organize for collective bargaining similar to teachers in other districts. It also provides that a bargaining unit at a school authorized by a traditional school district must negotiate as a separate unit with the charter school governing body or remain part of the school district unit if certain conditions and approvals are agreed upon.

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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

Minnesota law allows authorizers to permit a school that meets certain criteria, including improved academic performance and growth, to expand operation to additional school sites as approved by the state commissioner following the submission of a supplemental affidavit. These additional sites however, are considered additional campuses of a given school, not separate schools.

The state department of education allows each individual campus to receive separate federal charter start-up funds and requires that the contract between the authorizer and the charter school include specific fiscal and academic accountability measures for each campus. While under one charter, each campus that is self-identified as being distinct by the charter school receives its own site number from the state department of education and receives a separate rating under the state's accountability system.

The law provides that cach charter school must have its own charter board, with such board only allowed to hold one charter contract.

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

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

16. Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities Eligibility and Access

weight = 1 | Possible total = 4

Minnesota law allows 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.

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16A. Laws or regulations explicitly state that charter school students and employees are eligible to participate in all interscholastic leagues, competitions, awards, scholarships, and recognition programs available to non-charter public school students and employees.

16B. Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extra-curricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at non-charter public schools for a fee by a mutual agreement.

17. Clear Identification of Special Education Responsibilities

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Minnesota law provides that charter schools are the LEAs for special education services and any such funds flow directly to them. In addition, it provides that charter schools may bill a student's resident school district for any additional funds needed to cover excess costs over and above the state and federal funds allocated for that student. Minnesota law provides that charter schools with at least 90% special education students are eligible for accelerated regular special education aid payments. The law also provides that schools have to pay 10% of the excess cost that’s billed back to districts.

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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

Minnesota law provides that a charter school earns general education revenue on a per pupil unit basis just as though it were a school district except for approximately $255 per pupil unit (4.85 percent of the basic formula allowance) for transportation expenses, which the charter school receives only if it provides transportation services. The general education revenue paid to a charter school is paid entirely through state aid.

The law provides that charter schools as LEAs have equal access to all applicable categorical funding.

Minnesota law's funding formula provides dollars for transportation to charter schools and gives charter schools the option of providing transportation and keeping the transportation funds or requesting the traditional district to provide transportation and then paying those funds to that district in which the school is physically located.

In a national study of charter school funding (Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists, 2010), Minnesota charter schools were receiving on average $11,081 per pupil, while traditional public schools would have received $12,720 for those students. As a result, the state's charter schools were receiving $1,639 per pupil - or 12.7% - less than what the traditional public schools would have received for those students. This figure includes all sources of funding, and the analysis reveals some continued inequities for both operational and capital funding (see component #19 for information on capital issues).

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18A. Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.

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

18C. Funding for transportation similar to school districts.

19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Minnesota law prohibits charter schools from using any state funds to purchase land or buildings, although charter schools may do so with non-state funds. It allows charter schools to lease space from a public or private owner or from a private nonprofit, nonsectarian, nonprofit, and with approval of the state department of education from other sectarian organizations. It is illegal for authorizers to lease space to their authorized schools.

Minnesota law provides lease aid to charter schools in the amount of 90% of lease costs, up to $1,314 per-pupil for Fiscal Year 2015. This amount, however, does not have a mechanism to increase over time and is a separate legislative appropriation.

Minnesota law specifies that charter schools that own their own facilities may not receive lease aid. However, it allows charter schools that meet certain requirements (e.g., have net unreserved general fund balances) to, with state commissioner approval, create an affiliated nonprofit building corporation, which may renovate or purchase an existing facility or expand an existing building or construct a new school facility. The law allows such nonprofit building corporations to secure financing through various sources available to other nonprofits (e.g., municipal bonds, mortgages), and allows charter schools to use their lease aid for facilities owned by nonprofit building corporations.

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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

Minnesota law provides that the employees of charter schools are considered public employees for retirement purposes and the schools and employees must contribute to the appropriate retirement 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).