Maine

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Maine

2011
Year Charter School Law Was Enacted
9
Estimated Number of Charter Schools in 2016-17
2,000
Estimated Number of Charter School Students in 2016-17
167
out of
240
Total Score

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Maine’s law allows multiple authorizers via local school districts and a statewide authorizer, has strong quality-control components, provides operational autonomy to charter public schools, and provides equitable operational funding to charter schools. The three major weaknesses of the law include a cap of 10 state-authorized charter schools during the initial 10 years that the law is in effect (there is no cap on the number of charter schools that local school districts can approve), a relatively small number of provisions for supporting charter schools’ facilities’ needs, and inadequate accountability for full-time virtual charter schools.

Potential areas for improvement in the law are lifting the state’s cap on state-authorized charter schools, ensuring equitable access to capital funding and facilities, and strengthening accountability for full-time virtual charter schools.

Component Scores

Are there caps on the growth of charter schools in this state?

While Maine law does not limit the number of charter schools that may be approved by local school boards, it does provide that there can be no more than 10 schools approved by the State Charter Schools Commission during its first 10 years. This “cap” is repealed by statute effective 2022. There are currently nine charter schools that have been approved by the State Charter Schools Commission.
Maine law also contains temporary enrollment caps in that a charter school cannot enroll more than 5% to 10% (depending on the size of the school administrative unit) of a school administrative unit’s students per grade level in each of the first three years that a school is open.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
1A
No numeric or geographic limits are placed on the number of charter public schools or students.
No
1B
If caps exist, there is room for growth.

Are a variety of charter schools allowed?

Maine law allows new start-ups and public school conversions.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
2A
New startups.
Yes
2B
Public school conversions.

Are non-district authorizers available to which charter applicants may directly apply?

Maine law provides that any local school board or a collaborative of local school boards may become an authorizer by issuing a request for proposals. In addition, the law allows charter school applicants to apply directly to the State Charter Schools Commission. The law provides that only the Commission can approve virtual schools.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
3A
The state allows an applicant anywhere in the state to apply directly to a non-district authorizer(s).

Is an authorizer and overall program accountability system required?

Maine law requires that local school boards interested in authorizing must issue a request for proposal.
Maine law requires authorizers to submit an annual report to the state commissioner of education and the legislature detailing their strategic vision for chartering and progress toward that vision, the performance of all of their charter schools, the status of their charter school portfolio, the oversight and services that they provide to their charter schools, and the total amount of funds collected from each public charter school the authorizer authorized and the costs incurred by the authorizer to oversee each public charter school.

The law gives the state department of education the right to investigate and, as appropriate, institute sanctions in response to authorizer performance or legal compliance. In addition to any other sanction instituted, the law allows the state commissioner of education to suspend a deficient authorizer’s authority to issue new charters or renew existing charters until the commissioner is satisfied that the deficiencies have been corrected.

Statute requires that the state department of education submit a comprehensive report to the governor, legislature, and public four and eight years after charter schools have been in operation.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
4A
Registration process for school boards to affirm their interest in authorizing.
N/A
4B
Application process for other eligible authorizing entities (except a state charter schools commission).
Yes
4C
Authorizer submission of annual report.
Yes
4D
The ability for the state to conduct a review of an authorizer’s performance.
Yes
4E
The ability for the state to sanction an authorizer for poor performance, including suspending an authorizer’s authority to approve new schools.
Yes
4F
Periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

Is there adequate authorizer funding?

Maine law allows authorizers to charge up to 3% of the per pupil allocations sent to the schools they authorize to cover the costs for an authorizer to oversee its public charter schools. Statute requires authorizers to report to the state commissioner of education the total amount of funds collected from each public charter school the authorizer authorized and the costs incurred by the authorizer to oversee each public charter school.
Statute provides that charter schools may not be required to purchase services from its authorizer, but may choose to do so. The law provides that schools and authorizers must execute an annual service contract, separate from the charter contract, stating the terms of the services.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
5A
A uniform statewide formula that guarantees annual authorizer funding that is not subject to annual legislative appropriations.
Yes
5B
Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.
Yes
5C
Separate contract for any services purchased from an authorizer by a school.
Yes
5D
Prohibition on authorizers requiring schools to purchase services from them.

Are there transparent charter application, review, and decisionmaking processes?

Maine law details the core elements required in the charter application and offers additional pieces for conversion schools and those proposing to use educational service providers.
Maine law requires authorizers to issue a request for proposals that includes application requirements and approval criteria.

Maine law requires authorizers to thoroughly evaluate each application including an in-person interview and a public meeting.

Maine law provides that all charter approval or denial decisions must made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
6A
Application elements for all schools.
Yes
6B
Additional application elements specific to conversion schools.
Yes
6C
Additional application elements specific to using educational service providers.
No
6D
Additional application elements specific to replications.
Yes
6E
Requirement for thorough evaluation of each application, including an in-person interview and a public meeting.
Yes
6F
Application approval criteria.
Yes
6G
All charter approval or denial decisions made in a public meeting with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

Are performance-based charter contracts required?

Maine law defines the charter contract as a performance-based contract for a fixed term between a charter school and an authorizer that describes performance expectations, provides operational responsibilities, and outlines the autonomy and accountability for each party for the contract.
Statute requires that the charter contract define academic and operational performance expectations by which a school will be judged based on a performance framework.

Statute provides that the initial charter term must be five years.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
7A
Being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer.
Yes
7B
Defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.
Yes
7C
Defining academic, financial, and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged based on a performance framework.
Yes
7D
Providing an initial term of five operating years.

Are there comprehensive charter school monitoring and data collection processes?

While Maine law does not require authorizers to publicly issue annual school performance reports, it does explicitly require authorizers to collect, analyze, and report all outcome and financial data in accordance with the performance framework outlined in each school’s contract. In practice, the state commission issues annual reports for each charter schools and requires full-time virtual charter schools to have third party annual reports completed and made public after the first year of operation.
The law requires charter schools to annually engage an external auditor, and submit the audits to their authorizer.

Statute also provides authorizers with clear authority to monitor the performance and compliance of their charter schools.

The law provides that authorizers must provide written notice to their schools of perceived problems and provide reasonable opportunity for the school to remedy the problems.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
8A
Required annual school performance reports.
Yes
8B
Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., generally accepted accounting principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).
Yes
8C
Authorizer authority to conduct oversight activities.
Yes
8D
Authorizer notification to its schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.
Yes
8E
Authorizer authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.
No
8F
Authorizer may not request duplicative data submission from its charter schools and may not use performance framework to create cumbersome reporting requirements.

Are there clear processes for renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions?

Maine law provides that during the fourth year of a charter school’s operation, the authorizer must issue a public charter school performance report. If the charter contract is expiring the next year, the law also requires the authorizer to offer charter renewal application guidance to the school. The law requires the performance report to include data on performance to date and notice of any weaknesses or concern that may jeopardize renewal. The law requires that schools be given the opportunity to respond and submit any corrections or clarifications and to submit additional evidence. In addition, the law requires such schools to officially apply for renewal by no later than September of their fifth year of operation.
The law includes clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation. It also requires authorizers to make their renewal decisions based on evidence of the school’s performance over the term of the charter.

Maine law provides that an authorizer may renew a charter for successive terms of five years. It also provides that an authorizer may issue a renewal for 15 years with public performance reports every five years.

The law requires authorizers to provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or non-renewal, including reasons, and reasonable time to respond.

Maine law requires renewal decisions to occur via a resolution of an authorizer’s governing body, with authorizers stating reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing.

Statute includes school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
9A
Authorizer must issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.
Yes
9B
Schools seeking renewal must apply for it.
Yes
9C
Authorizers must issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.
No
9D
Ability to have a differentiated process for renewal of high-performing charter schools.
Yes
9E
Authorizers must use clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.
Yes
9F
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.
No
9G
Requirement that authorizers close chronically low-performing charter schools unless exceptional circumstances exist.
Yes
9H
Authorizers must have the authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.
Yes
9I
Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or nonrenewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.
No
9J
Authorizers must provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions (e.g., public hearing, submission of evidence).
Yes
9K
All charter renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions must be made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for nonrenewals and revocations in writing.
Yes
9L
Authorizers must have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.
No
9M
Any transfer of charter contracts from one authorizer to another are only allowed if they are approved by the state.

Is there transparency regarding educational service providers?

Maine statute allows charter school governing boards for virtual charter schools to enter into contracts with educational service providers for education design, implementation, or comprehensive management of the virtual public charter school program. However, it only allows charter school governing boards for brick and mortar charter schools to enter into contracts with educational service providers for a limited scope of education or management services.
Maine law requires the charter application to contain details regarding past performance data of any service provider and significant details regarding the terms of the proposed contract with the service provider.

The law also requires the application to contain details about any potential conflict of interests between the charter school governing board and the service provider and a statement of assurance that the two entities are legally and operationally independent of each other.

Maine rules require a public charter school’s governing board, leaders, and managers to be legally and operationally independent from any education service provider. In determining whether boards, leaders, and managers are independent of the service provider, the rules require an authorizer to consider all factors, including but not limited to: whether the charter school’s governing board is selected by, or includes members who are employees of, the education service provider; whether the charter school has an independent attorney, accountant, and audit firm that works for the charter school and not the education service provider; whether the contract between the charter school and the education service provider was negotiated at “arms length,” clearly describes each party’s rights and responsibilities, and specifies reasonable and feasible terms under which either party may terminate the contract; whether the fee to be paid by the charter school to the education service provider is reasonable for the type of services provided; and whether any other agreements (e.g., loans or leases between the charter school and the education service provider) are fair and reasonable, documented appropriately, align with market rates, and include terms that will not change if the contract is terminated.

The law provides that a charter school must ensure that the persons who operate the virtual public charter school on a day-to-day basis comply with and carry out all applicable requirements, statutes, regulations, rules and policies of the school.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
10A
All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and nonprofit) are allowed to operate all or parts of schools.
Yes
10B
The charter application requires (1) performance data for all current and past schools operated by the ESP, and (2) explanation and evidence of the ESP’s capacity for successful growth while maintaining quality in existing schools.
Yes
10C
A performance contract is required between the independent charter school board and the ESP, with such contract approved by the school’s authorizer.
Yes
10D
School governing boards operate as entities completely independent of any ESP, individuals compensated by an ESP are prohibited from serving as voting members on such boards, and existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.
No
10E
Provides that charter school governing boards must have access to ESP records necessary to oversee the ESP contract.
No
10F
An ESP must annually provide information to its charter school governing board on how that ESP spends public funding it receives when the ESP is performing a public function under applicable state law.
Yes
10G
Requires that similar criminal history record checks and fingerprinting requirements applicable to other public schools shall also be mandatory for on-site employees of ESPs who regularly come into contact with students.

Are the schools fiscally and legally autonomous with independent charter school boards?

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.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
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).
Yes
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).
Yes
11C
Independent school governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

Are there clear student enrollment and lottery procedures?

Maine law provides that charter schools are open to any state resident as well as to residents outside of the state if space is available. According to the law, a public charter school may not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, income level, disabling condition, proficiency in the English language or academic or athletic ability, except that nothing in the law may be construed to limit the formation of a public charter school that is dedicated to focusing education services on at-risk pupils, students with disabilities, and students who pose such severe disciplinary problems that they warrant a specific education program.
The law requires that enrollment preferences must be provided to previously enrolled students within conversions, prior year students within chartered schools, and siblings of students enrolled at a charter school. The law allows schools to give preferences to the children of charter school founders, board members, and full-time staff, not exceeding 10% of the school’s total student population.
Maine law provides that if capacity is insufficient to enroll all students who wish to attend the school, the public charter school must select students through a random selection process.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
12A
Open enrollment to any student in the state.
Yes
12B
Anti-discrimination provisions regarding admissions.
Yes
12C
Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions and for prior-year students within charter schools.
Yes
12D
Lottery requirements.

Is there automatic exemption from many state and district laws and regulations?

Maine law provides that charter schools are automatically exempt from all statutes and rules other than those stated in the charter school law.
Maine law provides that teachers must comply with federal regulations regarding teacher qualifications and that full-time teachers must either hold an appropriate teaching certificate or become certified within three years except for those with an advanced degree, professional certification, or unique expertise or experience in the curricular area in which they teach.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
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.
Some
13B
Exemption from state teacher certification requirements.

Is there an automatic collective bargaining exemption?

Maine law provides that teachers in new start-up schools have the right to bargain collectively, but it must be separate from other bargaining units such as the district bargaining unit. The law also provides that these teachers cannot be required to be members of any existing agreement.
Maine law provides that teachers in conversion schools have a right to benefits as stated in applicable collective bargaining agreements or they may vote to be represented in alternative ways.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
14A
Charter schools authorized by nonlocal board authorizers are exempt from participation in any outside collective bargaining agreements.
Some
14B
Charter schools authorized by local boards are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

Are multischool charter contracts and/or multicharter contract boards allowed?

Statute allows both multi-school contracts and multi-charter contract boards. It also makes clear that any charter school that contains multiple campuses operating under a single charter contract or overseen by a single governing board must report the performance of each campus and hold them independently accountable for its performance.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
15A
Oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.
Yes
15B
Hold multiple charter contracts with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

Is there eligibility and access to extracurricular and interscholastic activities?

The law states that charter students have the right to participate in extracurricular and interscholastic activities not offered by their school to the same extent and subject to the same requirements as non-charter public school students. The law provides that non-charter schools may require such students to pay a portion of the cost of providing those activities.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
16A
Laws or regulations explicitly state that charter school students and employees are eligible to participate in all extracurricular and interscholastic activities available to noncharter public school students and employees.
Yes
16B
Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extracurricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at noncharter public schools.

Is there clear identification of special education responsibilities?

If a local school board approves a charter school, the school district is the LEA for the school and has responsibility for special education services. If the State Charter Schools Commission approves a charter school, the charter school is the LEA and responsible for special education.
For each enrolled special education pupil, statute provides that a public charter school must receive the average additional allocation calculated by the state department of education for its special education students. Statute also provides that the department shall pay directly to the public charter school any federal or state aid attributable to a student with a disability attending the public charter school in proportion to the level of services for the student with a disability that the public charter school provides directly or indirectly.

Statute indicates that the state department of education must pay to a public charter school any additional allocation assigned to the school because of a high-cost in-district placement in accordance with state law in the year in which the allocation is assigned as an adjustment to the public charter school's state contribution. It also provides that the department shall pay to the public charter school any additional allocation assigned to the school administrative unit because of a high-cost out-of-district special education placement in accordance with state law in the year in which the allocation is assigned.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
17A
Clarity regarding which entity is the local education agency (LEA) responsible for providing special education services.
Yes
17B
Clarity regarding the flow of federal, state, and local special education funds to the designated LEA.
Yes
17C
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).
No
17D
Clarity that charter schools have access to all regional and state services and supports available to traditional districts.

Is there equitable operational funding and equal access to all state and federal categorical funding?

Maine law includes many of the model law’s provisions for equitable operational and categorical funding, but there is no evidence of the amount of funds charters receive versus districts.
Maine law provides that state allocation funds follow each student to the public charter school attended by the student, but allows districts to retain up to 1% of the per-pupil allocation for administrative costs associated with the transfer of funds.

For transportation expenses, the law provides that the transportation operating allocation must be the statewide per-pupil essential programs and services transportation operating allocation multiplied by pupil counts multiplied by the percentage established by the commission for the public charter school but not to exceed 100%.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
18A
Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.
Some
18B
Equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.
Yes
18C
Funding for transportation similar to school districts.
No
18D
Annual report offering district and charter school funding comparisons and including annual recommendations to the legislature for any needed equity enhancements.

Is there equitable access to capital funding and facilities?

Maine law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for equitable access to capital funding and facilities.
Maine law provides that charter schools have right of first refusal to purchase or lease any school facilities or property and that the price cannot exceed the fair market value of the property.

The law provides that a public charter school may negotiate and contract with a school administrative unit, the governing body of a state college or university or public community college or any other public or for-profit or nonprofit private entity for the use of a school building.

According to the law, a library, community service, museum, performing arts, theater, cinema, church, community college, college and university facilities may provide space to public charter schools within their facilities under their preexisting zoning and land use designations.

It also provides that a public charter school may purchase or lease at or below fair market value part or all of any surplus or unused state-owned facility or property located in the State. The state agency in control of the facility may not require purchase or lease payments that exceed the fair market value of the property.

According to the law, the same zoning rules that apply to other noncharter public schools apply to public charter schools.

The law provides that a facility, or portion thereof, used to house a public charter school is exempt from property taxes.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Facilities Funding
No
19A
A per-pupil facilities allowance that annually reflects actual average district capital costs.
No
19B
A state grant program for charter school facilities.
No
19C
Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to noncharter public schools.
Access to Public Space
No
19D
A requirement for districts to provide school district space or funding to charter schools if the majority of that schools’ students reside in that district.
Yes
19E
Right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed, unused, or underused public school facility or property.
Access to Financing Tools
No
19F
A state loan program for charter school facilities.
No
19G
Equal access to tax-exempt bonding authorities or allowing charter schools to have their own bonding authority
No
19H
Pledging the moral obligation of the state to help charter schools obtain more favorable bond financing terms.
No
19I
The creation and funding of a state charter school debt reserve fund.
No
19J
The inclusion of charter schools in school district bonding and mill levy requests.
No
19K
A mechanism to provide credit enhancement for charter school facilities.
Other
Yes
19L
Charter schools allowed to contract at or below fair market value with a school district, a college or university, or any other public or for-profit or nonprofit private entity for the use of facility for a school building.
Yes
19M
Certain entities allowed to provide space to charter schools within their facilities under their preexisting zoning and land use designations.
Yes
19N
Charter school facilities exempt from ad valorem taxes and other assessment fees not applicable to other public schools.

Is there access to relevant employee retirement systems?

The law provides that charter schools may establish a retirement plan or may choose to set up a plan with the state retirement system.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
20A
Charter schools have access to relevant state retirement systems available to other public schools.
Yes
20B
Charter schools have the option to participate (i.e., not required).

Are there provisions for full-time virtual charter schools?

The law provides that only the State Charter Schools Commission can approve virtual schools.
According to the law, the charter contract of a virtual public charter school must require the governing board to:

* Provide each student enrolled in the virtual public charter school with online courses that meet or exceed state standards and all instructional materials required for the student's participation in the school;
* Ensure that the persons who operate the virtual public charter school on a day-to-day basis comply with and carry out all applicable requirements, statutes, regulations, rules and policies of the school;
* Ensure that a parent of each student verifies the number of hours of educational activities completed by the student each school year; and
* Adopt a plan by which the governing board provides:
• Frequent, ongoing monitoring to ensure and verify that each student is participating in the virtual public charter school, including synchronous contact between teachers and students and between teachers and parents to ensure and verify student participation and learning;
• Regular instructional opportunities in real time that are directly related to the virtual public charter school's curricular objectives, including, but not limited to, meetings with teachers and educational field trips and outings;
• Verification of ongoing student attendance in the virtual public charter school;
• Verification of ongoing student progress and performance in each course as documented by ongoing assessments and examples of student course work; and
• Administration to all students in a proctored setting of all applicable assessments as required by the State.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
21A
An authorizing structure whereby full-time virtual charter schools that serve students from more than one district may be approved only by an authorizer with statewide chartering jurisdiction and authority, full-time virtual charter schools that serve students from one school district may be authorized by that school district, and a cap is placed on the total amount of funding that an authorizer may withhold from a full-time virtual charter school.
No
21B
Legally permissible criteria and processes for enrollment based on the existence of supports needed for student success.
No
21C
Enrollment level provisions that establish maximum enrollment levels for each year of a charter contract, with any increases in enrollment from one year to the next based on whether the school meets its performance requirements.
Some
21D
Accountability provisions that include virtual-specific goals regarding student enrollment, attendance, engagement, achievement, truancy, and attrition.
No
21E
Funding levels per student based on costs proposed and justified by the operators.
No
21F
Performance-based funding whereby full-time virtual charter schools are funded via a performance-based funding system based on meeting the accountability performance provisions.