Measuring Up

 



South Carolina

TOTAL SCORE:
152 out of 228

Rank: 10 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted: 1996
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14: 59
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14: 23,302

Changes in 2014

South Carolina’s score increased from 147 points to 152 points. While the score increased because of new policies for Component #3 (Multiple Authorizers Available) and Component #6 (Transparent Charter Application, Review, and Decisionmaking Processes), it decreased because of clarification about the policies for Component #5 (Adequate Authorizer Funding). Its ranking went from #16 to #10.

Recommendations

South Carolina law does not cap charter school growth, provides multiple authorizing options to charter applicants, and provides a fair amount of autonomy and accountability to public charter schools. However, it also provides inequitable funding to charters, especially around facilities, technology, and transportation.

Potential areas for improvement include ensuring equitable funding through increasing per-pupil funding, providing equitable access to capital funding, and ensuring access to vacant and underutilized facilities. South Carolina could also consider enacting statutory guidelines to govern the expansion of high-quality charter schools through multischool charter contracts and/or multicharter contract boards.

Do South Carolina's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

South Carolina's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

South Carolina 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

South Carolina 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

Under South Carolina law, applicants can apply to their local school district, the South Carolina Public Charter School District, or a public or independent institution of higher learning that registers with the South Carolina Department of Education. There is considerable authorizing activity by local school districts and the South Carolina Public Charter School District.

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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

South Carolina law requires a public or an independent institution of higher learning that wants to serve as an authorizer to register with (not apply to) the South Carolina Department of Education. It does not require a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state.

South Carolina law requires a charter school to report annually to its authorizer and the authorizer shall compile those reports into a single document that must be submitted to the South Carolina Department of Education and that must include, at a minimum, the following: the number of students enrolled in the charter school from year to year; the success of students in achieving the specific educational goals for which the charter school was established; an analysis of achievement gaps among major groupings of students in both proficiency and growth; the identity and certification status of the teaching staff; the financial performance and sustainability of the authorizer’s charter schools; and board performance and stewardship including compliance with applicable laws. It does not require the report to include information that summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities.

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

South Carolina law requires the state board of education to compile evaluations to include, but not be limited to, school report cards of charter schools received from authorizers. It requires the state board to review information regarding the regulations and policies from which charter schools were released to determine if the releases assisted or impeded the charter schools in meeting their stated goals and objectives.

The law does not require a regular review process by an authorizer oversight body of local school board and higher education authorizers and does not give an authorizer oversight body the authority to sanction local school board and higher education 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.

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

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

South Carolina law provides that the South Carolina Public Charter School District may retain no more than 2 percent of the total state appropriations for each charter school it authorizes to cover the costs for overseeing its charter schools. The law provides that this fee does not include costs incurred in delivering services that a charter school may purchase at its discretion from the district. These provisions do not apply to local school board and higher education authorizers.

South Carolina law requires that all services centrally or otherwise provided by an authorizer including, but not limited to, food services, custodial services, maintenance, curriculum, media services, libraries, and warehousing are subject to negotiation between a charter school and the authorizer and must be outlined in the school’s charter contract. The model law calls for such services to be included in a contract separate from the school’s charter contract.

The law does not require authorizers to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures and does not prohibit authorizers from requiring schools to purchase services from them.

2

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

South Carolina law provides application elements for all schools. The law provides additional application elements specific to conversion schools, virtual schools, educational service providers, and replications.

South Carolina law requires that decisions on applications must be made at a public hearing, with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

The law does not require authorizers to issue requests for proposals that include application requirements and approval criteria and does not require authorizers to thoroughly evaluate each application including an in-person interview and a public meeting.

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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

South Carolina law provides that a charter application constitutes an agreement between the charter school and the authorizer. It requires that a charter contract between the charter school and the authorizer must be executed and must reflect all provisions outlined in the applications as well as the roles, powers, responsibilities, and performance expectations for each party to the contract. However, it does not require that contracts define academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged, based on a performance framework.

South Carolina law provides an initial term of 10 years with annual reviews.

The law does not require contracts to include provisions 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

South Carolina law requires that charter schools must report annually on performance data and other information to their authorizer and to the state department of education. South Carolina law requires authorizers to annually evaluate the progress schools make towards the pupil achievement standards identified in the charter application.

Under the law, charter schools must adhere to the accounting, auditing, and reporting procedures that are applicable to traditional public schools in South Carolina.

South Carolina law requires authorizers to conduct or require oversight activities that enable them to fulfill their responsibilities including conducting appropriate inquiries and investigations, but only if those activities are consistent with the intent of the state’s charter law, adhere to the terms of the charter contract, and do not unduly inhibit the autonomy granted to public charter schools.

South Carolina law requires authorizers to collect an annual report from each of their authorized schools and submit them to the South Carolina Department of Education.

The law requires an authorizer to notify a charter school of perceived problems if the school’s performance or legal compliance appears to be unsatisfactory and provide reasonable opportunity for the school to remedy the problem, unless the problem warrants revocation and revocation timeframes apply.

It also requires an authorizer to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation in response to apparent deficiencies in charter school performance or legal compliance. These actions or sanctions may include requiring a school to develop and execute a corrective action plan within a specified timeframe.

16

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

South Carolina law dictates that schools must submit a renewal application and identifies what such applications must contain. However, it does not require authorizers to issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year and to issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.

The law provides that a charter school may be closed for committing a material violation of the conditions, standards, performance expectations, or procedures provided for in the charter application or charter school contract or both; failing to meet the academic performance standards and expectations as defined in the charter application or charter school contract or both; failing to maintain its books and records according to generally accepted accounting principles or to create an appropriate system of internal control or both; or violating any provision of law from which the charter school was not specifically exempted.

The law provides that an authorizer shall permanently close any charter school at the conclusion of the school year after receiving the lowest performance rating as define by the federal accountability system for three consecutive years. This provision does not apply to any charter school serving 50 percent or more students with disabilities or any charter school designated as an Alternative Education Campus by its authorizer per state law.

South Carolina law requires authorizers to annually evaluate the progress schools make towards the pupil achievement standards identified in the charter application and use that information in making renewal or revocation decisions.

The law provides that renewal terms are for 10 years with annual reviews. It does not allow authorizers to vary the length of the charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

At least 60 days before not renewing or terminating a charter school, the law requires the authorizer to notify the school in writing and make a hearing available.

The law requires authorizers to state reasons for nonrenewals and revocations in writing but does not require all charter renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions be made in a public meeting.

Prior to any public charter school closure, the law requires the authorizer to develop a public 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 net assets in accordance with the requirements of the law.

8

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

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

South Carolina law allows a charter school board to contract for services, but does not require educational service provider information within the charter application, does not require authorizer approval of any performance contracts between schools and educational service providers, does not ensure that school governing boards operate as entities legally and fiscally independent of any educational service provider, and does not require that existing and potential conflicts of interest be disclosed and explained in the charter application.

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

South Carolina law requires charter schools to incorporate as nonprofits.

South Carolina law requires charter schools to have their own governing board independent of the authorizer that may sue and be sued.

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

South Carolina law requires charter schools to provide open enrollment to any student in the state. However, it also provides that a charter school must give priority to in-district children versus out-of-district children and that the out-of-district enrollment must not exceed 20 percent of the total enrollment of the charter school without the approval of the authorizer and the sending local school board.

Under South Carolina law, a lottery is required if applications exceed available seats.

South Carolina law requires that the racial composition of the charter school enrollment reflect that of the local school district in which the charter school is located or that of the targeted student population of the local school district that the charter school proposes to serve, defined as differing by no more than 20 percent from that population.

South Carolina law requires a converted school to give priority in enrollment to students enrolled in the school at the time of conversion and students who reside within the former attendance area of that public school thereafter. It also requires a charter school to give enrollment preference to students enrolled in the school the previous school year and states that an enrollment preference for returning students excludes those students from entering into a lottery.

The law allows (but does not require) a charter school to give enrollment priority to a sibling of a pupil currently enrolled and attending or who within the last six years attended the school for at least one complete academic year. The law also allows a charter school to give enrollment priority to children of a charter school employee and children of the charter committee, provided their enrollment does not constitute more than 20 percent of the enrollment of the charter school (not 10 percent).

It also allows a charter school located on a federal military installation or base where the appropriate authorities have made buildings, facilities, and grounds on the installation or base available for use by the charter school as its principal location to give enrollment priority to otherwise eligible students who are dependents of military personnel living in military housing on the base or installation or who are currently stationed at the base or installation, not to exceed 50 percent of the total enrollment of the charter school.

4

12A. Open enrollment to any student in the state.

12B. Lottery requirements.

12C. Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions, prior year students within chartered schools, siblings of enrolled students enrolled at a charter school.

12D. Optional enrollment preference for children of a school’s founders, governing board members, and full-time employees, not exceeding 10% of the school’s total student population.

13. Automatic Exemptions from Many State and District Laws and Regulations

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Except as provided in the state’s charter school law, South Carolina law exempts a charter school from all provisions of law and regulation applicable to a public school, a school board, or a school district, although a charter school may elect to comply with one or more of these provisions of law or regulation. However, the provisions of state law concerning employment and dismissal of teachers apply to staff at conversion charter schools that were there at the time of conversion.

The law provides that up to 10 percent of teachers in conversions and 25 percent in start-ups may be noncertified. In either a new or converted charter school, the law provides that a teacher teaching in the core academic areas as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind law must be certified in those areas or possess a baccalaureate or graduate degree in the subject he or she is hired to teach.

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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

South Carolina law provides that charter schools are exempt from participation in any district personnel policies, except that the provisions of state law concerning employment and dismissal of teachers apply to staff at conversion charter schools that were there at the time of conversion.

9

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

South Carolina law is silent regarding these arrangements.

2

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

South Carolina law provides that a charter school is eligible for federally sponsored, state-sponsored or district-sponsored interscholastic leagues, competitions, awards, scholarships, grants, and recognition programs for students, educators, administrators, staff, and schools to the same extent as all other public schools.

South Carolina law allows charter school students in schools not providing extracurricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at the resident public school the students would otherwise attend.

4

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

South Carolina law provides that an authorizer of a charter school is the charter school’s local education agency (LEA) and a charter school is a school within that LEA. It also states that authorizers retain responsibility for special education and must ensure that students enrolled in their charter schools are served in a manner consistent with LEA obligations under applicable federal, state, and local law.

It does not provide clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools in the same amount or in a manner similar to other LEAs.

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

South Carolina law provides that a local school board authorizer must distribute state, county, and school district funds to a charter school as determined by a formula created in law.

It also provides that the South Carolina Public Charter School District or public or independent institution of higher learning authorizer must receive and distribute state funds to a charter school as provided by the General Assembly. These schools are ineligible to receive local funding. The state budget includes dollars for these schools along with the base student cost per student that each school receives. These dollars equate to $1,900 per virtual charter school student and $3,600 per brick-and-mortar charter school student.

The law provides that authorizers shall distribute to charter schools federal funds that are allocated to the authorizer on the basis of the number of special characteristics of the students attending the charter schools. The law also provides that the proportionate share of state and federal resources generated by students or staff serving them must be directed to the authorizer. It requires an authorizer to supply to a school the proportional share of each categorical fund for which the charter school qualified within ten business days after the authorizer receives the funds. If the authorizer fails to do so, the law allows the South Carolina Department of Education to fine the authorizer an amount equivalent to the withheld amounts.

South Carolina law provides that charter schools are responsible for providing or contracting for transportation to in-district students. The law provides that the state is not responsible for student transportation unless the charter school is designated by the local school district as the only school selected within the school district’s attendance area.

In a national study of charter school funding (University of Arkansas, Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands, 2014), South Carolina charter schools were receiving on average $9,045 per pupil in public funds, while traditional public schools would have received $10,266 for those students. As a result, the state’s charter schools were receiving $1,221 per pupil—or 11.9 percent—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 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

South Carolina law provides that charter schools are eligible for tax-exempt financing through the South Carolina Jobs-Economic Development Authority.

South Carolina law requires the state department of education to make available, upon request, a list of vacant and unused buildings and vacant and unused portions of buildings that are owned by school districts and that may be suitable for the operation of a charter school. It provides that if a school district declares a building surplus and chooses to sell or lease the building, a charter school's board of directors or a charter committee operating or applying within the school district must be given the first refusal to purchase or lease the building under the same or better terms and conditions as it would be offered to the public.

South Carolina law creates a Charter School Facility Revolving Loan Program. In 2014, it provided $500,000 to this program.

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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

South Carolina law gives charter school teachers and personnel equal access to the state retirement system. It requires that original staff at conversion charter schools remain employees of the district and therefore must participate but makes it optional for other staff to participate.

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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).