Measuring Up

 



Wisconsin

TOTAL SCORE:
79 out of 228

Rank: 38 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted: 1993
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14: 245
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14: 43,835

Changes in 2014

Wisconsin’s score increased from 76 points to 79 points. The score changed because of further clarification about the policies for Component #11 (Fiscally and Legally Autonomous Schools with Independent Public Charter School Boards). Its ranking stayed at #38.

Recommendations

One of the primary contributors to the public charter school law’s weakness in Wisconsin is that it creates three types of public charter schools. The first two types—“independent charter schools” and “noninstrumentality charter schools”—actually have independence and autonomy. The City of Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside authorized independent charter schools. Noninstrumentality charter schools are authorized by local school districts, and their staff members are employees of the school (not the district). The third type—“instrumentality charter schools”—has little independence and autonomy. Instrumentality charter schools are authorized by local school districts, and their staff members are employees of the district (not the school). For all three types of charters, the law provides insufficient accountability and inequitable funding to public charters.

Wisconsin’s law needs improvement across the board. Potential starting points include expanding authorizing options, beefing up the law in relation to the model law’s four quality control components (Components #6 through #9), increasing operational autonomy, and ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

Do Wisconsin's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Wisconsin's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Wisconsin law does not place any caps on district-authorized charter schools or on nondistrict-authorized schools in Milwaukee. However, Wisconsin law provides that the University of Wisconsin-Parkside may sponsor only one charter school in the Racine School District that may not enroll more than 480 students. Also, the Milwaukee Public Schools has created a cap on the percentage of district students (8 percent) that may enroll in district schools that aren’t unionized, which includes noninstrumentality charters.

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

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

2. A Variety of Public Charter Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Wisconsin law does not place any caps on district-authorized charter schools or on nondistrict authorized schools in Milwaukee. However, Wisconsin law provides that the University of Wisconsin-Parkside may sponsor only one charter school in the Racine School District that may not enroll more than 480 students. Also, the Milwaukee Public Schools has created a cap on the percentage of district students (8 percent) that may enroll in district schools that aren’t unionized, which includes noninstrumentality charters.

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2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

In all districts, Wisconsin law allows local school boards to serve as authorizers. In the city of Milwaukee, the law allows the city of Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the Milwaukee Area Technical College to serve as authorizers (in addition to the local school board). In Milwaukee County (including the city of Milwaukee) and in any adjacent county, the law allows the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to serve as an authorizer (in addition to the local school boards in these communities). The law also allows the University of Wisconsin-Parkside to authorize one charter school in the Racine School District.

6

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

Wisconsin law includes a small number of the elements of the model law's authorizer and overall program accountability system.

While the law does not require the legislature and the governor to regularly review the performance of the city of Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Area Technical College, and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside as authorizers, they can do so at any time. In addition, the ability of the city of Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Area Technical College, and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside to continue authorizing can be removed by the legislature and the governor (the entities that gave them that authority).

The law does not require at least a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state; does not require an application process for other eligible authorizing entities; does not require authorizer submission of an annual report that summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio; does not require a regular review process by an authorizer oversight body of local school board authorizers; does not require an authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction local school board authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools; and does not require a periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

3

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

Wisconsin 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

Wisconsin law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for transparent charter application, review, and decisionmaking processes.

Wisconsin law requires application elements for all schools and includes additional application elements specific to virtual schools. However, it does not include additional application elements specific to conversion schools, educational service providers, and replications. It also does not require authorizers to issue requests for proposals, thoroughly evaluate each application via an in-person interview and a public meeting, make all approval and denial decisions in a public meeting, and state reasons for denials in writing.

4

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

Under Wisconsin law, charter contracts exist as separate documents from the application and are between the authorizer and governing board of a charter school, but the contract requirements concern only school roles, powers, and responsibilities and do not address authorizer roles, powers, and responsibilities. The law also does not require contracts to include academic and operational performance expectations based on a performance framework and does not include requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools.

Wisconsin law requires an initial charter term of five years.

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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

Wisconsin law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for comprehensive charter school monitoring and data collection processes.

Wisconsin law requires that the charter petition specify the manner in which annual financial audits will be performed.

The law does not require authorizers to collect and analyze student outcome data at least annually, provide authorizers the authority to conduct or require oversight activities, require authorizers to publish annual school performance reports, require authorizers to notify their schools of perceived problems and give schools opportunities to remedy such problems, and provide authorizers the authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.

4

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

Wisconsin law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for clear processes for renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions.

Under Wisconsin law, a charter may be revoked for violating its contract, if the pupils enrolled in the charter school failed to make sufficient progress toward attaining the state education goals, for failing to comply with generally accepted accounting standards of fiscal management, or for violating the state's charter school law.

Wisconsin law specifies that a charter may be renewed for one or more additional terms not to exceed five years.

Wisconsin law does not require authorizers to issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year; require schools seeking renewal to apply for it; require authorizers to issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans; require authorizers to ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract; provide authorizers the authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues; require authorizers to provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or nonrenewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond; require authorizers to provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions; require authorizers to make all charter renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions in a public meeting and to state reasons for nonrenewals and revocations in writing; and require authorizers to have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.

4

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

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

Wisconsin law does not directly address educational service providers but allows a contract with an individual or group to operate a charter school. The law also provides that if the City of Milwaukee contracts with an individual or group operating for profit to operate a school as a charter school, the charter school is an instrumentality of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), and the MPS board must employ all personnel for the charter school.

There are no provisions in the law related to performance contracts, authorizer approval of such contracts, and relationships between educational service providers and the charter board.

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

Wisconsin law lacks most of the model law’s provisions to support fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent boards.

Wisconsin law grants some fiscal and legal autonomy to nondistrict-authorized schools and to district-authorized noninstrumentality schools, but not to district-authorized instrumentality schools. It provides that nondistrict-authorized schools and district-authorized noninstrumentality schools employ their own teachers, but district-authorized instrumentality schools do not.

6

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

Wisconsin law lacks most of the model law’s provisions for clear student recruitment, enrollment, and lottery procedures.

Wisconsin law allows charter schools authorized by local school boards to provide open enrollment to any student in the state. It requires charter schools authorized by a city, university, or technical college to provide enrollment only to those students located in Milwaukee County or in an adjacent county.

According to Wisconsin law, if a charter school replaces a public school in whole or in part, it must give preference in admission to any pupil who resides within the attendance area or former attendance area of that public school.

The law does not include the model law’s required enrollment preferences for prior-year students within chartered schools and siblings of students enrolled at a charter school. It also does not include the model law’s optional enrollment preferences.

2

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

Wisconsin law provides that a charter school authorized by a city, university, or technical college receives an automatic waiver from state and district education laws, regulations and policies, while a charter school that is authorized by a local school board receives an automatic waiver from state education laws, regulations and policies, but not from school district education laws, regulations and policies.

Wisconsin law requires charter school teachers be certified. However, Wisconsin law directs the state department of public instruction to grant a charter school teaching license to any person who has a bachelor’s degree and demonstrates that he or she is proficient in the subject or subjects that he or she intends to teach. The license authorizes the person to teach that subject or those subjects in a charter school. The bill does not explicitly limit the person to teaching only certain grades. The license is valid for three years and may be renewed. Also, if a school’s search for a licensed teacher is unsuccessful, the law provides a special charter school permit for persons with a bachelor's degree in their field who take six credits of training each year and are supervised by a teacher with a regular license.

6

13A. Exemptions from all laws, except those covering health, safety, civil rights, student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information, and generally accepted accounting principles.

13B. Exemption from state teacher certification requirements.

14. Automatic Collective Bargaining Exemption

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Under Wisconsin law, charter schools authorized by nonlocal board authorizers and charter schools authorized by local board authorizers that employ their own staff are exempt from participation in any outside collective bargaining agreements, while those authorized by local school boards that do not employ their own staff are not exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

6

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

Wisconsin 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

Wisconsin law is silent on this issue. In practice, however, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association allows charter school participation.

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

Wisconsin law addresses special education, but is unclear about responsibility for providing services and funding for low-incident, high-cost services. In practice, however, a charter school authorized by a city, university, or technical college is its own LEA. A charter school that is sponsored by a local school board may be either part of the school district LEA that authorized it or its own LEA.

2

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

Wisconsin law is silent on how district-authorized charter schools should be funded. It provides that nondistrict-authorized public charter schools will receive $7,925 per pupil in 2013-14 and $8,075 per pupil in 2014-15. Beginning in 2015-16, the law provides that these schools’ per-pupil payment be set equal to the payment amount in the prior year plus the revenue limit per-pupil adjustments, if positive, provided to public school districts in the current year plus the change in categorical aid funding per pupil, if positive, from the prior year to the current year.

In a recent national study of charter school funding (University of Arkansas, Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands, 2014), Wisconsin charter schools were receiving on average $9,870 per pupil in public funds, while traditional public schools would have received $15,879 for those students. As a result, the state’s charter schools were receiving $6,009 per pupil—or 37.8 percent—less than what the traditional public schools would have received for those students. This figure includes all sources of funding, and analysis reveals significant inequities for both operational and capital funding (see Component #19 for information on capital issues).

0

18A. Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.

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

18C. Funding for transportation similar to school districts.

19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Wisconsin law provides that charter schools are eligible to receive tax-exempt financing from the Wisconsin Health and Educational Facilities Authority and various city redevelopment agencies.

Wisconsin law requires the City of Milwaukee to make decisions about leasing and selling surplus buildings in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). This law also makes the City party to any lease between MPS and a noninstrumentality charter school and provides that the City may negotiate with the charter school to modify the terms of the lease when the lease is modified, extended, or renewed.

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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

Under Wisconsin law, only those charter schools whose personnel are employees of the school district are eligible to participate in the state retirement system.

2

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).