South Carolina

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South Carolina

1996
Year Charter School Law Was Enacted
66
Estimated Number of Charter Schools in 2016-17
31,700
Estimated Number of Charter School Students in 2016-17
155
out of
240
Total Score

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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 charter schools. However, it also provides inequitable funding to charter schools, especially around facilities, technology, and transportation.

Potential areas for improvement include ensuring equitable funding by increasing per-pupil funding, providing equitable access to capital funding, and ensuring access to vacant and underutilized facilities. South Carolina could also consider ensuring transparency regarding educational service providers, allowing multischool charter contracts or multicontract governing boards, and strengthening accountability for full-time virtual charter schools.

Component Scores

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

South Carolina law does not place any caps on charter school growth.

Subcomponents

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

Are a variety of charter schools allowed?

South Carolina 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?

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.

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?

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.
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.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
4A
Registration process for school boards to affirm their interest in authorizing.
Some
4B
Application process for other eligible authorizing entities (except a state charter schools commission).
Yes
4C
Authorizer submission of annual report.
Some
4D
The ability for the state to conduct a review of an authorizer’s performance.
Some
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?

South Carolina law includes a small number 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 two 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 don’t 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.

Subcomponents

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

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

South Carolina law provides application elements for all schools. The law provides additional application elements specific to conversion 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.

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.
Yes
6D
Additional application elements specific to replications.
No
6E
Requirement for thorough evaluation of each application, including an in-person interview and a public meeting.
No
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?

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.

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.
Some
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?

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.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
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?

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 failed 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 fifty 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 non-renewals and revocations in writing, but does not require all charter renewal, non-renewal, 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.

The law contains some provisions regarding the transfer of a charter contract from one authorizer to another, but it does not require state approval for such a transfer.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
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.
No
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.
Yes
9G
Requirement that authorizers close chronically low-performing charter schools unless exceptional circumstances exist.
No
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.
Yes
9J
Authorizers must provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions (e.g., public hearing, submission of evidence).
Some
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?

South Carolina law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions regarding educational service providers. South Carolina law allows a charter school board to contract for services, but does not include any of the model law’s other provisions for transparency regarding educational service providers.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
10A
All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and nonprofit) are allowed to operate all or parts of schools.
No
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.
No
10C
A performance contract is required between the independent charter school board and the ESP, with such contract approved by the school’s authorizer.
No
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.
No
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?

South Carolina law provides requirements for fiscally and legally autonomous schools.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.

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?

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 twenty percent of the total enrollment of the charter school without the approval of the authorizer and the sending local school board.The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, race, creed, gender, national origin, religion, ancestry, or need for special education.
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 twenty 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 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 twenty percent of the enrollment of the charter school.
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 fifty percent of the total enrollment of the charter school.
Under South Carolina law, a lottery is required if applications exceed available seats.

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?

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% of teachers in conversions and 25% in start-ups may be non-certified. 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.

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?

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.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
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?

South Carolina law is silent regarding these arrangements.

Subcomponents

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

Is there eligibility and access to extracurricular and interscholastic activities?

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 extra-curricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at the resident public school the students would otherwise attend.

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.
No
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?

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.

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.
No
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?

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% - 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).

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
18A
Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.
Yes
18B
Equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.
No
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?

South Carolina law contains a small number of the model law’s provisions regarding equitable access to capital funding and facilities.
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. There is currently $1.1 million appropriated to this program.

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
Yes
19F
A state loan program for charter school facilities.
Yes
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
No
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.
No
19M
Certain entities allowed to provide space to charter schools within their facilities under their preexisting zoning and land use designations.
No
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?

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.

Subcomponents

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

Are there provisions for full-time virtual charter schools?

South Carolina law contains a small number of the model law’s provisions regarding full-time virtual charter schools.
South Carolina law includes some additional accountability for full-time virtual charter schools, such as those related to record keeping, the provision of equipment, teachers, and other program services (including at least 25% of a student’s time being engaged in instructional opportunities in real time such as meetings with teachers and educational field trips and outings, as well as the requirement of bi-weekly parent-teacher conferences in person or by phone).

The law also requires the inclusion of performance criteria the school must use to measure obtainment of academic performance goals, and that the school must also monitor and track student progress and attendance.

The law does not address the other provisions related to full-time virtual charter schools found in the model law.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
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.