Measuring Up to the Model



weight: 3 | possible total: 12

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

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.

How well do states’ laws align to this component of the model law?

State

Charter Law Description

Score

Alaska

Alaska law includes none of the model law’s provisions for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent public charter school boards.

0

Arizona

Arizona law provides that all charter schools are fiscally and legally autonomous schools under the control of a “charter holder.” That charter holder may be a for-profit entity, a non-profit entity, or a single individual, and may operate one or more schools under their charter, with such schools having boards with varying levels of authority over the school.

9

Arkansas

Arkansas law requires conversion charter schools to remain a part of the local school district that approved them.

Arkansas law requires that open enrollment charter schools become fiscally and legally autonomous entities governed by an eligible entity that is fiscally accountable and under the governing structure as described by the charter.

6

California

California law states that a charter authorizer is not liable for the debts, obligations, acts, errors or omissions of a charter school, if the authorizer has complied with its oversight responsibilities under the law. California law allows charter schools to elect to operate as nonprofit public benefit corporations.

The law does not explicitly require a governing board for each school. It only requires that a charter petition describe the governance structure of the school, including, but not limited to, the process to be followed by the school to ensure parental involvement. The law also entitles a local school district board that has granted a charter to place a single representative on the charter school’s governing board.

9

Colorado

Colorado law explicitly provides for charter school fiscal and legal autonomy. The law also states that a charter school shall be administered and governed by a governing body in a manner agreed to in the charter contract and requires charter schools to organize as nonprofit corporations.

12

Connecticut

Connecticut law requires charter schools to be organized as a nonprofit entities and operated independently of any local or regional board of education in accordance with the terms of their charters.

12

Delaware

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

12

District of Columbia

The law requires charter schools to be established as independent LEAs, except that for special education purposes, they may elect to be part of the district LEA. The law explicitly provides for charter school fiscal and legal autonomy.

The law provides for charter school governing board independence. In addition to requiring each charter school to be established as a nonprofit corporation, the law specifies that charter schools are not part of the DC government, while it establishes the authorizer as part of the DC government.

12

Florida

Florida statutes and regulations do not detail clearly that all charter schools are fully fiscally and legally autonomous. For example, they are not recognized as LEAs for the purposes of funding nor does it indicate that schools can sue and be sued in their own names.

Florida law provides that charter schools must be organized as, or be operated by, a nonprofit organization and allows them to be either a private or public employer. The state’s model application requires a description of proposed board member recruitment and development plans and the model application’s evaluation criteria indicates that reviewers must look for a governing board that is legally structured or plans to accomplish it.

9

Georgia

Under Georgia law, local boards control and manage charter schools authorized by them, and start-up charter schools authorized by local boards must provide a statement in their petition indicating their governing board is subject to the control and management of the local board. State-authorized charter schools have their autonomy grounded in the state constitution provision for “special schools” and they act as their own LEAs and fiscal agents.

6

Hawaii

Hawaii law provides that each charter school's local school board is to be an independent governing body of its charter school and is responsible for the financial, organizational, and academic viability of the charter school and the implementation of the charter, and is the independent authority that determines the organization and management of the school, the curriculum, virtual education, and compliance with applicable federal and state laws.

12

Idaho

Idaho law explicitly provides fiscal and legal autonomy to charter schools.

The law requires charter schools to be organized and managed as nonprofit corporations governed by a board of directors. The law deems each charter school’s board of directors to be public agents authorized by the local school board, the state charter school commission, or the state board of education to control the charter school, while functioning independently of the local school district or the state commission except as provided in the charter.

12

Illinois

Illinois law requires a charter school be organized and operated as a nonprofit corporation or other legal entity, governed by its own board of directors or other governing body of a discrete legal entity already existing or established to operate the proposed school, and responsible for the management and operation of its fiscal affairs.

Illinois statute does not include all provisions that would clearly indicate that every charter school, including conversion schools, is a separate legally autonomous school (e.g., it does not state that they can sue and be sued in their own names). Also, charter schools authorized by local school boards remain part of school district LEAs. Charter schools approved by the State Charter School Commission, however, are their own LEA.

9

Indiana

Under Indiana law, a charter school may sue or be sued, acquire property, convey property and enter into contracts in its own name, including contracts for services.

The law does not include provisions creating school governing boards specifically to govern their charter schools.

9

Iowa

Iowa law does not include any of the model law’s provisions for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent public charter school boards. Iowa law requires charter schools to remain a legal part of the local school district, with the charter schools having only an advisory council.

0

Kansas

Kansas law provides that charter schools operate as an “independent public school” within a school district, with the governance structure as defined in their charter contract with the local school board. However, statute does not provide for any level of fiscal or legal autonomy, nor does it require an independent board to govern the school.

0

Louisiana

Under Louisiana law, a charter school is an independent public school, regardless of type. The law provides that charter schools can exercise the powers needed to perform any necessary function. It also specifies that governing boards operate independently of authorizers and that all charter schools except Type 4 charters must be organized as non-profit corporations under applicable federal and state laws. Law is explicit that for charters overseen by the state board of education, the board of directors of each charter operator must exercise final authority in matters affecting the charter school including, but not limited to, staffing, financial accountability, and curriculum.

12

Maine

Maine law states that all charter schools are to be governed by a board that is independent of a school administrative unit and has autonomy over key decisions including finance, personnel, scheduling, curriculum, and instruction.

12

Maryland

Maryland law includes none of the model law's provisions for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent public charter school boards.

0

Massachusetts

Massachusetts law provides requirements for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent charter school boards.

12

Michigan

Michigan law requires charter schools to be organized as a non-profit corporation and clearly states that the school is a body corporate and a governmental agency.

Michigan law requires charter schools to be organized and administered under the direction of a board of directors in accordance with law and with bylaws adopted by the board of directors. Statute also requires each authorizer to adopt a resolution establishing the methods used to select board members, length of terms, and the number of members for the board of directors of each school it oversees, which means authorizers have great influence over the composition of a given charter school board.

12

Minnesota

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.

12

Mississippi

Statute describes charter schools as independently managed public schools operated by qualified nonprofit organizations. It provides that such schools function as a local education agency and are governed by a board of directors appointed or selected under the terms of their charter application. It states that such boards have clear statutory authority to operate a fiscally and legally autonomous school, including things like receiving and disbursing funds and entering into contracts.

12

Missouri

Missouri law requires that charter schools incorporate as non-profit entities with various powers, such as entering into partnership contracts for services to support the school and incurring debt in advance of receiving funds. Statute indicates that charter schools can incur bonded indebtedness or take other measures to provide for physical facilities or other needs.

Under Missouri law, charter school board members are selected as officers of the nonprofit charter school and must follow financial disclosure requirements. They are subject to the same liability for acts while in office as if they were members of traditional school boards.

12

Nevada

Nevada law provides for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent charter school boards.

12

New Hampshire

New Hampshire law provides that charter schools must operate as a nonprofit secular organization, be independent of any local school board, and be managed by a board of trustees having general supervisory control and authority over the operations of the chartered school.

12

New Jersey

New Jersey law provides that charter schools are independent of district control and have all powers necessary or desirable for carrying out the school’s program. It also provides that they are managed by a board of trustees empowered to supervise and control the charter school.

12

New Mexico

New Mexico law provides requirements for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent charter school boards.

12

New York

New York law provides that charter schools are education corporations, and deems them independent and autonomous public schools.

The law provides that charter boards of trustees are autonomous, and that the powers of charter boards of trustees includes the full set of rights of trustees under the not-for-profit corporation law of the state.

12

North Carolina

North Carolina law provides all of the model law's requirements for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent charter school boards.

12

Ohio

Ohio law includes all of the model law’s provisions for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent public charter school boards for non-district authorized schools, but not for district-authorized schools.

6

Oklahoma

Oklahoma law allows a charter school to enter into contracts and sue or be sued. It also provides that charter schools are also considered a school district for purposes of the Governmental Tort Claims Act.

Oklahoma law requires charter schools to provide for a governing body for the school that shall be responsible for the policies and operational decisions of the charter school.

12

Oregon

Oregon law explicitly provides for fiscal and legal autonomy and requires each charter school to be established as a nonprofit corporation with its own governing board.

12

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law provides that charter schools must be organized as public nonprofit corporations with statutory authority as a body corporate to, for example, sue and be sued and acquire property and with trustees of a charter school being public officials.

Pennsylvania law provides that charter school boards of trustees have authority over budgetary and employee issues, although statute provides that every charter school employee must be provided the same health care benefits as employees of the local district.

Statute notes that no member of a local governing board may serve on the board of trustees of a charter school in that district.

12

Rhode Island

State law provides that district charters are still bound to the district’s collective bargaining agreement unless the parties to the collective bargaining agreement approve variances requested by the school. Rhode Island law states that teachers and administrators in district and independent charter schools are entitled to prevailing wages and benefits as enjoyed by others in the district for district charter schools or others in the state for independent charter schools. Such schools must also pay into the state pension system and provide tenure. These provisions restrict the fiscal autonomy of a given school board. Mayoral academy charter schools are not subject to the above restrictions.

Rhode Island law provides that charter schools may negotiate and contract directly with third parties.

Rhode Island law requires all charter schools to have governing boards. It also requires mayoral academy charter schools to have a board of trustees or directors that is comprised of representatives from each city or town participating in the school and chaired by a mayor of an included city or town. It also subjects the governing boards of all charter schools to the open meetings law.

6

South Carolina

South Carolina law requires charter schools to incorporate as non-profits.

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

12

Tennessee

Tennessee law provides requirements for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent charter school boards. Statute specifically states that a charter school can buy, sell or lease property, borrow funds as needed, pledge assets as security, and sue and be sued.

A governing body must be established for each charter school to oversee matters, including, but not limited to, budgeting, curriculum and other operating procedures.

12

Texas

Texas law provides requirements for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent charter school boards for open-enrollment charter school boards but not for district-authorized charters. District-authorized charter schools are governed and financed by the local school district board of trustees.

6

Utah

Utah law requires charter schools to be established as nonprofit corporations governed by independent governing boards.

12

Virginia

Virginia law states that a charter school must be run by a management committee (comprised of parents, teachers, and representatives of community sponsors) that administers and manages the school in a manner agreed upon by applicant and the local school board. Virginia law also requires charter schools to enter into charter contracts with their authorizer and allows charter schools to enter into contracts for services.

According to the law, however, charter school personnel are considered employees of the local school board granting the charter and are granted the same employment benefits in accordance with the district’s personnel policies (unless the local school board allows charter school personnel to be employees of the charter school governing board), and the charter school remains a part of the school district LEA that authorized it.

6

Washington

Statute describes charter schools as independently managed public schools operated by qualified nonprofit organizations. It provides that such schools function as a local education agency and are governed by a board of directors appointed or selected under the terms of their charter application. It states that such boards have clear statutory authority to operate a fiscally and legally autonomous school, including things like receiving and disbursing funds and entering into contracts.

12

Wisconsin

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 non-district authorized schools and to district-authorized non-instrumentality schools, but not to district-authorized instrumentality schools. It provides that non-district authorized schools and district-authorized non-instrumentality schools employ their own teachers, but district-authorized instrumentality schools do not.

3

Wyoming

The law specifies that a charter school is a governmental entity and that its financial obligations shall not constitute debt or financial obligations of the school district unless the district board expressly assumes such obligations in writing.
Wyoming regulations permit charter schools to enter into contracts for services and property, and state that charter schools shall have standing to sue and be sued in their own name for the enforcement of any contract. However, the law permits a charter school, with the consent of the school district, to delegate to the district its authority to negotiate and/or execute a service or property contract. In addition, the law states that the school district shall be the owner of all records of the charter school, including student, staff and public affairs records of charter school operations.

Wyoming law allows charter schools to organize as a nonprofit corporation, but the law does not require an independent governing board with powers similar to other public school boards. Despite the law’s vagueness, Wyoming regulations indicate a presumption that each charter school is governed by a board of directors, but neither the law nor regulations are explicit on the independence, authority, and responsibilities of the board.

6