THIS IS HOW THE EDUCATION OPTIONS ACT OF 2012 PAGE APPEARED AS OF MAY 2, 2012, prior to the Senate’s passage of SB513.  For a current analysis, visit the Education Options Act of 2012 Analysis page.

Senate Bill 513 is the Senate version of the Education Options Act of 2012.  It received a favorable report from the Senate committee with seven amendments.  I was able to appropriately interpret and place six of the seven amendments.  Amendment 5 called for the deletion of lines 13 through 22 on page 39.  Due to inconsistencies in page numbering, I was unable to determine was Amendment 5 actually accomplished.  Hopefully the bill will be reposted with all amendments incorporated.

Changes or difference in the substitute of SB513 as compared with HB650 are indicated in red in the analysis by subject.

Major differences in SB513 (from April 18 to May 2, 2012) as compared with HB650 include:

  • In schools seeking innovation status “certification is not necessarily required for those full-time teachers with an advanced degree in the curricular area in which they teach, professional certification in the curricular area in which they teach, or unique expertise or experience in the curricular area in which they teach.”  This is the exact language that is used in the requirements for teachers in public charter schools.
  • Regarding priority schools:  “The department shall assume decision-making responsibilities on behalf of priority schools if the administrator or local board does not act to provide an appropriate intervention to address the needs of the priority schools at the end of the third year of priority status.”
  • Language regarding enrollment simply states:  “”The student body of a public charter school shall be inclusive and reflect the racial, gender, geographic, urban/rural, and economic diversity of the state.”   In the House version, the language expressly indicates which groups may not be discriminated against.
  • The Charter Application Review Council is expressly prohibited from establishing a public charter school in a system whose local board has already authorized a public charter school.
  • Section 9(c)(3) creates a question in my mind.  Here’s what it says:  “While any public charter school, consistent with subdivision (1) of subsection (b) of Section 8, may accept enrollment applications from any student residing in the local school system where the public charter school is to be located, any public charter school whose formation is authorized by the council must be a conversion charter school established within the low-performing priority school.”  Section 9 speaks to authorizers. The Charter Application Review Council (the “Council”) is prohibited from establishing conversion charter schools in Section 11(a)(2) of both the House and Senate versions.  Hypothetically, then, the practical application of this language can only look something like this:  a start-up charter’s application is denied by the local board.  The start-up charter appeals to the Council.  The Council authorizes the charter, but according to this section, that charter must be implemented as a conversion, rather than a start-up charter.  Again, this language is not in the House version.  I have not spoken with the Senate bill’s author, so I cannot verify this at the time this is being written.  This is a best guess of how Section 9(c)(3) may be practically applied.  I hope to get clarification soon.
  • Amendment #5 to SB513 stated “delete lines 13 through 22, inclusive” from page 39 of the bill.  Due to inconsistent numbering of pages, I was unable to determine exactly what that amendment accomplished.
  • Public charter schools will be required to report the number of mid-year transfers, withdrawals, suspensions and expulsions, and the reasons for each.
  • All members of the governing board of a public charter school must be United States citizens and Alabama residents.

House Version

Because HB541 passed as a substitute with a number of amendments, HB650 has been introduced. HB650  replicates the bill that was passed by the House Ways and Means Education committee on April 5, amendments and all.  HB650 was opened for a public hearing and received a favorable report from the House committee.

Changes to the original House bill (from HB541 to HB650) are indicated in the following analysis.  Changes from the original House bill are either struck through to indicate the language no longer exists in the substitute bill or are written in green to indicate new language added to the House version.

Major changes from HB541 to HB650 include:

  • Charters will only be granted in school systems with persistently low-performing schools (PLS).
  • Cap on charters decreased from 50 to 20.
  • The cap will never be lifted.
  • A charter wishing to open must serve the students in the geographic area of the PLS.
  • A public charter must locate its facility in the attendance zone of the PLS.
  • A public charter school is not given the right of first refusal to facilities located in the PLS attendance zone.
  • Clarifies that a charter application can only be brought to a local school board through recommendation of the local superintendent
  • Increases the number of members in the Charter School Application Review Council (CSARC) from 9 to 11.
  • The Governor is allowed one less appointment to the CSARC (from 5 appointments to 4 appointments)
  • The three additional members are the President of the State Board of Education (the Governor), Dr. Bice and a representative from the State Board of Education (either the Vice-President or the State Board member elected from the district where the charter application is being sought).
  • The CSARC will be set up within the State Department of Education, rather than as an independent state agency.
  • The CSARC may hear an appeal if the local authorizer denies the application or has not acted on the application within the 90-day required period.
  • The ALSDE will mediate contract or other disputes between the local authorizer and the public charter school.
  • Public charter schools must teach the same Alabama student standards that public non-charters teach.
  • Public charter schools do not have to comply with regulations related to principal contracts.
  • Public charter schools must make a one-time irrevocable choice before opening their school about whether they will allow their employees to enroll in the Alabama Teacher’s Retirement Program and the Public Education Employees’ Health Insurance Program.
  • The state of Alabama has no moral obligation to repay bonds issued by public charter schools.
  • If a public charter school closes, after satisfying obligations, any monies left over must be given to the local school system in which the public charter operated.

This page serves to allow Alabama’s school community a simpler, more organized look into the Education Options Act of 2012.

This page is organized whereby you can click the topic of interest within the proposed legislation to learn more about what the legislation says.  If any amendments are made to the proposed legislation, the amended information will be added.

Every effort was made to be accurate.  If you see any factual errors, please contact us at asc(at)alabamaschoolconnection.org  (It’s spelled out to prevent spammers from obtaining our e-mail address).

Non-Charter Public Schools –
Flexibility

Public Charter Schools –
Accountability Requirements
Accountability Reports
Alabama State Department of Education’s Role
Application Process to Become a Public Charter School
At-Risk Students
Athletics
Audits
Authorizers
Caps on Number of Charters
Charter School Application Review Council
Closure (Voluntary, as Opposed to Revocation of a Charter)
Conflicts of Interest
Contracts, Specifically
Conversion Charter School
Education Service Providers (ESPs)
Enrollment Procedures
Extracurricular Activities
Facilities
Funding
Governing Charter School Board
Laws to Which a Public Charter School Is Subject
Length of Charter Term
Non-Priority Local School System
Open Meetings and Open Records
Priority Local School System
Religion
Renewal
Revocation of a Charter
Special Education
Status of a Charter School, Generally
Teachers and Employees
Timeline
Title I Considerations
Transfers (Student-Initiated)
Transportation

Accountability Requirements for Public Charter Schools

  • Must follow all state and federal accountability requirements. [Section 12(a)(2)a]
  • Must follow the same student standards, assessment and accountability requirements that non-public charter schools must follow. [Section 14(e)(2)]
  • May establish student assessment measures that go beyond state requirements if the authorizer approves them. [Section 14(e)(2)]
  • Student performance data must be disaggregated by major student subgroups. [Section 12(a)(2)d]
  • The authorizer will develop the performance framework that includes academic and operational performance targets to guide evaluations of public charter schools. [Section 12(a)(2)e]
  • Annual academic and operation performance targets will be set, including:  [Section 12(a)(2)e]
    • Student academic proficiency
    • Student academic growth
    • Achievement gaps in proficiency and growth
    • Attendance
    • Recurrent enrollment
    • Postsecondary readiness (if the charter is a high school)
    • Financial performance and sustainability
    • Governing board performance and stewardship
    • Parent and community engagement
    • Mid year transfers and withdrawals and the reasons therefore
    • Suspensions, expulsions, and the reasons therefore.

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Accountability Reports

  • Authorizers must issue a charter school performance report no later than June 30 of the fourth year of operation under each five-year term of a charter contract. [Section 13(c)]
  • Authorizers must submit to the Governor, the Legislature, and the State Superintendent of Education, an annual report within 60 days of the end of each school fiscal year which includes: [Section 9(e)]
    • Performance of all public charter schools it oversees, using the performance measures and expectations specified in the contract. [Section 9(e)(1)]
    • Status of all of the public charter schools in its portfolio. [Section 9(e)(2)]
    • The oversight and authorizing functions it provide to the public charter schools, including all costs. [Section 9(e)(3) and (4)] 

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Alabama State Department of Education’s (ALSDE) Role

  • Will be responsible for the Charter School Application Review Council. [Section 6(a)]
  • Will be responsible for mediating contract and other disputes should they arise between local authorizers and public charter schools. [Section 12(d)]
  • State Superintendent of Education and a State Board of Education member will serve on the Charter School Application Review Council. [Section 6(c)]
  • May apply for grants for public charter schools. [Section 7(b)]
  • May provide assistance to and will establish policies and practices for authorizers in developing effective procedures. [Section 7(a) and (d)]
  • May investigate and institute sanctions if authorizers are deficient in compliance. [Section 7(e)]
  • Will issue a report three years after December 31, 2012, on the assessment of public charter schools in Alabama. [Section 7(f)].
  • Reports will be issued again on December, 31, 2018, and every three years after that. [Section 7(f)].
  • Will consider whether the definition of priority local school system should be changed on or before December 31, 2015, and will make that recommendation to the Governor and the Legislature. [Section 7(g)]
  • Will be responsible for issuing requests for proposals (RFPs) for charter school applicants. [Section 10(a)]

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Application Process to Become a Charter

  • An application must be recommended by the local school superintendent to the local board of education before it can be considered. [Section 11(a)(1)]
  • An applicant may submit an application to only one authorizer at a time. [Section 11(a)(4)]
  • An applicant must be a nonprofit and nonreligious organization. [Section 11(b)(1)]
  • Applications must be approved or denied within 90 days. [Section 11(d)]
  • Denials must specifically state the reason for denial in writing. [Section 11(d)(2)]
  • Applicants who are denied may reapply to that authorizer, but not more than once during any two-year period. [Section 11(d)(2)]
  • RFPs/Applications must contain:
    • Vision of the public charter school, including executive summary, mission of the school, targeted student population and community it hopes to serve, and evidence of the need for the public charter school. [Section 10(b)(2)a]
    • Governance plan of the public charter school, including background of proposed board members, bylaws, organizational chart, description of duties of every entity on the organizational chart, background of leadership and management team of public charter school. [Section 10(b)(2)b]
    • Location of the school [Section 10(b)(2)c.1]
    • Grades to be served [Section 10(b)(2)c.2]
    • Minimum, planned and maximum enrollment per grade per year for the term of the charter. [Section 10(b)(2)c.3]
    • Proposed calendar and sample daily schedule of the school. [Section 10(b)(2)c.4]
    • Plans and timelines for student recruitment and enrollment. [Section 10(b)(2)c.5]
    • Explanations of any contractual relationships central to the mission of the school. [Section 10(b)(2)c.6]
    • Proposals for transportation, food service, and other operational services. [Section 10(b)(2)c.7]
    • Facilities plan. [Section 10(b)(2)c.8]
    • Detailed start-up plan, identifying tasks, timelines, and responsible individuals. [Section 10(b)(2)c.9]
    • Closure protocol, including plans for transitioning students and student records to new schools, disposal of remaining school funds, property and assets if the school is closed. [Section 10(b)(2)c.10]
    • Financial plan. Including start-up and three-year budgets, start-up and first-year cash flow projections, fundraising plans (if a part of the application), evidence that financial measures are consistent with Alabama Code, insurance coverage. [Section 10(b)(2)d]
    • Student policy, including: [Section 10(b)(2)e]
      • Plans for identifying, recruiting, and serving students with the wide range of learning needs and styles typically found in schools in the local school system.
      • Plans for complying with special education and antidiscrimination laws.
      • Student discipline plans and policies, along with the research to support the plans
      • Student transfers out of the charter school into non-charter public schools.
    • Academic program, including [Section 10(b)(2)f]
      • Instructional design
      • Class size and structure
      • Curriculum overview
      • Teaching methods
    • Co-curricular and extracurricular programs, including funding and delivery
    • Staffing plans and policy, including [Section 10(b)(2)g]
      • Staffing chart for first year and staffing plan for term of the charter
      • Recruiting and development plans
      • Leadership and teacher employment policies
      • Performance evaluation plans
    • Parental involvement plans, including expectations and opportunities and plans for those parents with significant barriers to involvement. [Section 10(b)(2)g.4]
    • Details of the ESP partnership or contractual obligation. [Section 10(c)]
  • Applications not acted upon at the end of 90 days can be appealed to the Council. [Section 9(c)(1)a]

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At-Risk Students

  • The definition of “at-risk student” is “a student who has an economic or academic disadvantage that requires special services and assistance to succeed in educational programs. The term includes, but is not limited to, students who are members of economically disadvantaged families, students who are identified as having special educational needs, students who are limited in English proficiency, students who are at risk of dropping out of high school, and students who do not meet minimum standards of academic proficiency”. [Section 4(3)]
  • The number of at-risk students should be similar to the grade-level distribution in the local school system. [Section 8(b)(7)]
  • The percentage of at-risk students cannot differ by more than 20% from similar grades in the local school system. [Section 8(b)(7)]
  • Exceptions are provided:  if the percentage differs, the local authorizer should investigate and determine whether discriminatory practices have occurred. [Section 8(b)(7)]
  • If the authorizer finds discriminatory practices, that is sufficient grounds to denial of an application or revocation of the charter. [Section 8(b)(7)]

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Audits

  • Audits will be performed by the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts, at the public charter school’s expense. [Section 14(g)]

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Authorizers

  • Local School Board that oversees a priority local school system [Section 9(b)1]
  • If a local school board, acting as authorizer, persists in violating material provisions of a contract or doesn’t remedy other problems after receiving notice from the ALSDE, its chartering authority can be revoked. [Section 9(j)(3)]
  • Charter School Application Review Council [Section 9(c)(1)]
    • Can only authorize charter schools upon appeal from a charter applicant in a priority local school system. [Section 9(c)(1)]
    • Cannot authorize conversion charter schools ever. [Section 9(c)(2)] This language is removed in SB513.
    • Can mediate terms of contract if an authorizer and a charter applicant cannot agree upon terms of contract after due diligence. [Section 12(d)]
  • If the Council persists in violating material provisions or doesn’t remedy other problems after receiving notice from the ALSDE, the appointees deemed responsible can have their appointment revoked. [Section 9(j)(4)]
  • If an authorizer’s chartering authority is revoked, the ALSDE will manage the charter contracts until a new authorizer can be found.  If an authorizer cannot be found, the public charter school will close and students will be transferred to non-charter public schools. [Section 9(j)(5)]
  • Responsible for collecting, analyzing, and publicly reporting all data from state assessments and other measures developed in the Performance Framework of the charter. [Section 9(e) and 12(c)]

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Caps on Number of Charters

  • Only 50 20 charters can be authorized prior to December 31, 2016. [Section 11(d)(4)]
  • After December 31, 2016, there will be no cap. [Section 11(d)(4)]

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Charter School Application Review Council [Section 6]

  • Nine Eleven members: [Section 6(c)]
    • Is established as a part of the ALSDE [Section 6(a)]
    • The President of the State Board of Education, who will be chair of the council [Section 6(c)1].
    • The State Superintendent of Education, who will serve as vice-chair of the council [Section 6(c)2]
    • The member of the State Board of Education in whose district the application is being sought.  If no application is before the council, then the Vice-President of the State Board of Education [Section 6(c)3].
    • 5 4 appointed by the Governor
    • 2 appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives
    • 2 appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate
    • Professional makeup of the Council: [Section 6(c)]
      • One must be a current or retired public school teacher.
      • One must be a current or retired public school principal.
      • One must be a current or retired public school superintendent
      • One must be current or retired member of a local school board.
      • Two members must be parents who reside in a priority local system.
      • All must be residents of Alabama.
      • Cannot be members of the Legislature or the State Board of Education [Section 6(d)]
    • Experience and expertise expected of the Council: [Section 6(d)]
      • Public and nonprofit governance
      • Strategic planning
      • Management and finance
      • Public school leadership
      • Assessment, curriculum and instruction
      • Public school law
    • Membership on the Council will reflect the racial, gender, geographic, urban/rural, and economic diversity of the state [Section 6(e)]
    • Initial appointments will be made no later than 90 days after December 31, 2012. [Section 6(f)]
    • Terms of members outlined in Section 6(f), starts staggered, and after the initial term has ended, the term will be three years. [Section 6(f)]
    • All members of the council shall serve on the council until their successor is appointed, but no Council member can serve more than three consecutive terms. [Section 6(f)]
    • Must comply with all Open Records and Open Meetings laws. [Section 6(h)]
    • Members can be removed from the Council by the Governor “for any cause that renders the member incapable or unfit to discharge his or her duties as a council member. [Section 6(g)]
    • The Council can authorize the formation of a public charter school only if both of the following are met:  (1) the local school board either denies the application or the application is not acted on within 90 days of its submission, and (2) the applicant chooses to appeal. [Section 9(c)1a and b]
    • The Council cannot authorize a conversion public charter school. [Section 9(c)2].  This language is removed in SB513.
    • The Council is prohibited from authorizing a public charter school in a system whose local board has already established a public charter school.  [Section 9(2)(b)]
    • Section 9(c)(3) states:  “While any public charter school, consistent with subdivision (1) of subsection (b) of Section 8, may accept enrollment applications from any student residing in the local school system where the public charter school is to be located, any public charter school whose formation is authorized by the council must be a conversion charter school established within the low-performing priority school.” This appears to allow a charter who appeals to the Council and is approved to then be implemented in the local school system as a conversion charter, which conflicts with language in Section 11(a)(2) prohibiting the Council from authorizing a conversion charter school.  However, the language expressly prohibiting the Council from authorizing a conversion charter school has been deleted from the Senate bill.

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Closure (voluntary, as opposed to revocation)

  • The authorizer will oversee and help the public charter school with all aspects of closure, including transfer of students.  [Section 13(h)(1)]
  • Assets will be used first to satisfy payroll obligations. [Section 13(h)(2)]
  • Assets will next be used to satisfy outstanding obligations owed to local school boards or authorizers providing services to the public charter school and finally to the creditors of the school. [Section 13(h)2]
  • After payment of payroll obligations, Any remaining funds must be returned to the Education Trust Fund local school board overseeing the local school system where the public charter school is located. [Section 13(h)(2)]

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Conflicts of Interest

  • An employee, agent, or representative of an authorizer may not simultaneously serve as an employee, agent, representative, vendor, or contract of a public charter school of an authorizer. [Section 9(g)]

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Contracts, Specifically [Section 12]

  • Details regarding the actual contract are in Section 12.
  • If an authorizer and a public charter school cannot agree upon terms of their contract, either party may request that the Council State Superintendent of Education review and mediate. [Section 12(d)].

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Conversion Charter School

  • ONLY a local superintendent can submit an application for a conversion charter school. [Section 11(b)(2)]
  • ONLY the local school board may authorize conversion charter schools. [Section 11(a)(2)]
  • Denials may NOT be appealed to the state-level Council. [Section 11(a)(3)]
  • A petition must accompany the application, signed by a majority of parents in the existing non-charter public school that is being sought for conversion. [Section 11(b)(2)]
  • Private schools cannot be converted to a public charter school. [Section 11(e)]
  • Full-time employees of a non-charter public school that is being converted to a public charter school will be given an opportunity to be hired at the public charter school. [Section 14(f)(5)]

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Education Service Providers (ESPs)

  • The governing board of the public charter school must retain authority over the school and cannot grant the ESP any authority. [Section 14(b)(4)]
  • If an ESP will be used as part of the charter, details must be provided about the ESP during the application process, including: [Section 10(c)]
    • How and why the ESP was selected [Section 10(c)(1)]
    • Evidence the ESP has been successful serving students similar to the target population for the public charter school; success includes academic success and management success. [Section 10(c)(2)]
    • Details regarding exactly what the ESP will be providing to the public charter school. [Section 10(c)(3)]
    • A copy of the draft contract between the ESP and the public charter school must be provided. [Section 10(c)(4)]
    • Explanation of how the public charter school’s governing board will monitor and evaluate performance and hold the ESP accountable. [Section 10(c)(5)]
    • Disclose potential or existing conflicts of interests between governing board and the ESP or affiliated business entity. [Section 10(c)(7)]

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Enrollment Procedures

  • Public charter schools organizers, in their recruitment efforts, shall include all segments of populations served by the existing public schools in the area where they propose to locate a public charter school, especially those students who reside in the attendance zone of a priority local school. [Section 8(a)]
  • No student can be required to attend a start-up public charter school, but any student in the local school system may submit an enrollment application to a start-up public charter school. [Section 8(b)2]
  • Public charter schools cannot discriminate against any student on the basis of race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, income level, sexual orientation, disabling condition, proficiency in the English language, academic or athletic ability, or on any other basis that would be unlawful if done by a public school. [Section 8(b)3]  This language is replaced in SB513 with the following:  “The student body of a public charter school shall be inclusive and reflect the racial, gender, geographic, urban/rural, and economic diversity of the state.”  [Section 8(b)(3)]
  • No financial incentives can be provided to potential students or their families. [Section 11(f)]
  • Lottery will be used in the case of more applicants than capacity. [Section 8(b)(6)]
  • Students will only be accepted from the school system in which they formed (no out-of-district transfers), except for children of founders, and full-time employees’ children. [Section 8(b)(1)].
  • First priority will be given to the following students, as long as these students total no more than 5% of the total student population: [Section 8(b)(6)]
    • students already enrolled the previous year,
    • siblings of students already enrolled,
    • and children of the founders, governing board members, and full-time employees of the public charter school.

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Extracurricular Activies and Athletics

  • Charter schools may compete in AHSAA programs and all eligibility rules apply. [Section 17(a) and (b)]
  • If no athletic programs are offered at the charter school, the student may be eligible for athletics at the public school to which the student is geographically zoned. [Section 17(b)].

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Facilities

  • The location of the public charter school must be in the PLS attendance zone. [Section 9(c)3]
  • There is nothing in that act that provides for state funding for facilities for public charter schools.
  • Charter schools may apply for grants and accept donations for facility funding. [Section 15(i)]
  • Charter schools will have first right of refusal to may lease or purchase unused school facilities in the school system where they are created at or below fair market value.[Section 16(a)(1)]
  • Other public entities (including churches) can offer space to a charter to operate. [Section 16(a)(2) and (3)]
  • Facilities will be subject to zoning and inspection as other facilities are. [Section 16(a)(5) and (b).
  • Facilities used to house a public charter school are exempt from property taxes. [Section 16(c)]

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Flexibility for Non-Charter Public Schools [Section 5]

  • This section is very similar to the School Flexibility Act, introduced on February 23.  To understand School Flexibility and Innovation School Systems better, check out this post.
  • It grants school systems the opportunity to pursue School Flexibility Contracts with the ALSDE.
  • School flexibility contracts grant much of the same flexibility of charters, except waiver of requirements related to the Teacher Tenure Law, the Fair Dismissal Act, and the Students First Act, among other laws and regulations. [Section 5(g)].
  • This bill adds a 30-day timeline for approval or denial by the ALSDE of a school system’s request for flexibility. [Section 5(i), Section 5(j)].
  • Certification is not necessarily required for those full-time teachers with an advanced degree in the curricular area in which they teach, professional certification in the curricular area in which they teach, or unique expertise or experience in the curricular area in which they teach.  This is the exact language that is used in the requirements for teachers in public charter schools. [Section 5(h)]

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Funding for Students

  • Funding is provided on a per-student allocation basis similar to that of a non-charter public school. [Section 15(b)(1)]
  • No tuition can be charged. [Section 14(d)(3)]
  • Fees may only be charged as are imposed by other public schools in the local school system in which the public charter school is located in the state. [Section 14(d)(3)]
  • Authorizers can take up to 3% of funding allotted to student to cover costs for oversight. [Section 9(f)(2)]
  • A public charter school authorized by a local school system may choose to purchase services (transportation, food service, etc.) from its authorizer.  If they do, a separate annual contract must be engaged.  An authorizer may not charge more than market rates. [Section 9(h)(2)]
  • A public charter school authorized by the Council may choose to purchase services from the local school system.  If they do, a separate annual contract must be engaged.  [Section 9(h)(2)]
  • Monies due to a public charter school from both state and local authorities will be distributed on a quarterly basis (differs from current monthly distribution). [Section 15(b)(2)]
  • If local funds are not allowed to be forwarded to the public charter school by law, then those funds are exempt. [Section 15(b)(2)]
  • ALSDE will adopt rules, if necessary, governing how to calculate and distribute per-student allocations for gifted, talented, vocational, technical, or career education programs. [Section 15(b)(3)]
  • Public charter schools are exempt from restrictions usually associated with categorical education funding, including the Foundation Program Fund.[Section 14(e)(5)]
  • Competitive grants may be sought. [Section 15(d)(2)]
  • Gifts and grants from private sources may be received.[Section 15(e)]
  • No taxes can be levied nor bonds can be issued secured by tax revenues.[Section 15(f)]
  • Bonds can be issued if they are secured by other sources of revenue. [Section 15(f)]
  • The state has a moral obligation to repay any bonds issued by a public charter school or a group of public charter schools. [Section 15(f)]

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Governing Charter School Board

  • This body is similar to a school system’s board of education, but serves only the public charter school. [Section 4(9)]
  • The Charter School’s board must have two members who are parents of students attending the charter school. [Section 4(10)]
  • Disputes between a governing board and an authorizer shall be mediated and resolved by the State Superintendent of Education, whose decision is final and binding. [Section 9(k)]
  • Subject to all Open Meetings and Open Records laws [Section 14(e)(3)]
  • Governing boards must be citizens of the United States and residents of Alabama [Section 14(e)(3) – from Amendment 6 to SB513]

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Laws to Which a Public Charter Is Subject

  • Each public charter school shall operate pursuant to its own distinct charter as a discrete legal entity state agency with local jurisdiction. [Section 14(a)(3)]
  • Public charter schools are governed by the Education Options Act of 2012.  [Section 14(a)]
  • If it is not specifically mentioned in the Act, public charter schools are exempt from all statutes and rules applicable to a public school, a local school board, or a local school system, but it may elect to comply [Section 14(e)(4)]
  • Public charter schools are subject to the same civil rights and health and safety requirements applicable to other public schools, except as otherwise noted in the Act. [Section 14(e)(1)]

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Length of Charter Term

  • Initial charters can be for no longer than 5 years. [Section 13(a)]
  • The term begins on the first day of operation of the charter school. [Section 13(a)]
  • Renewals can be granted in 5-year terms. [Section 13(b)]
  • Renewals can be authorized for a 10-year term based on performance and particular circumstances of the public charter school. [Section 13(b)]

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Non-Priority Local School System

  • Non-priority local school systems are those that contain no schools labeled “persistently low-performing”. [Section 4(16)]
  • Local school boards are the sole authority for approval of public charter schools in a non-priority school system. No appeals process is available. [Section 9(b)]
  • Charter schools can only be established in priority school systems [synopsis on first page].

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Open Meetings and Open Records

  • All Open Meetings and Open Records laws apply to governing boards of public charter schools [Section 14(e)(3)]
  • Contracts between charters and authorizers must be approved in a public meeting. [Section 12(a)(4)]

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Priority Local School System

  • Priority local school system is defined as a “local non-charter public school system where a school labeled as persistently low-performing by the State Department of Education in the then-most most recent United States Department of Education School Improvement Grant application or, if no such application is submitted, a non-charter public school listed in the lowest 5 percent of non-charter public schools on the state accountability plan.”  is located. ” (Section 4(1617)]
  • The AEA has published a list of low-performing schools.  Please note that the AEA is incorrect in stating that a district is “immediately” able to have a charter school.  This bill would not take effect prior to the 2013-2014 school year.  School districts listed in red are considered to be the schools and systems that are persistently low-performing.
  • No information can be found as to whether all three tiers (Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III) are considered or what other definition might be used.
  • On or before December 31, 2015, the State Superintendent of Education will make a recommendation to the Governor and the Legislature as to whether any changes should be made to the definition of a priority local school system in Section 4, and specifically what those changes are. [Section 7(g)]
  • Applicants who have their applications for creating a public charter school in a priority local school system denied may appeal the decision to the Council. [Section 9(c)(1)a]
  • Regarding priority schools:  “The department shall assume decision-making responsibilities on behalf of priority schools if the administrator or local board does not act to provide an appropriate intervention to address the needs of the priority schools at the end of the third year of priority status.” [Section 7(f)]

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Religion

  • Religion cannot be part of the education program of a charter school. [Section 14(d)(2)]
  • No religious practices can be the basis for admissions, employment policies, or operations. [Section 14(d)(2)]

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Renewal

  • Charters must request renewals no later than September 30 of the final authorized year of operation under the contract. [Section 13(d)]
  • Authorizers must rule on renewal application no later than 45 days after the renewal is filed. [Section 13(e)]
  • In considering renewals, authorizers must ground their decision in evidence of performance (as set forth in the Performance Framework), make data used in the decision available to the public, and provide a public report summarizing the evidence basis for their decision. [Section 13(e)(1)]

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Revocation of a Charter

  • If a charter is found to be discriminatory in enrolling at-risk students (see “At-Risk Students” for details. [Section 8(b)(7)]
  • If the charter committed a material violation of the contract [Section 13(f)(1)a]
  • If the charter failed to meet or make sufficient progress toward performance expectations. [Section 13(f)(1)b]
  • If the charter failed to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management. [Section 13(f)(1)c]
  • If the charter violated any provision of a law from which it was not exempted. [[Section 13(f)(1)d]
  • The revocation must be done in a public meeting that was announced no fewer than seven days in advance. [Section 13(f)(2)]
  • The authorizer will oversee and help the public charter school with all aspects of closure.  [Section 13(h)(1)]
  • Assets will be used first to satisfy payroll obligations. [Section 13(h)(2)]
  • After payment of payroll obligations, any remaining funds must be returned to the Education Trust Fund. [Section 13(h)(2)]

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Special Education

  • The public charter school has sole responsibility for identification of children with disabilities (“Child Find”). [Section 14(b)(3)]
  • The public charter school has sole responsibility for providing special education at the public charter school. [Section 15(c)(1)]
  • All current provisions of a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) must be maintained if the student transfers to a public charter school.  [Section 15(c)(1)]
  • The school system where the child resides may participate in the development of the student’s IEP. [Section 15(c)(1)]
  • Federal and state aid attributable to a student with a disability will be paid directly to the public charter school and provided in proportion to the level of services that the public charter school provides directly or indirectly.  [Section 15(c)(2)]
  • Local aid attributable to a student with a disability will be paid directly to the public charter school and provided in proportion to the level of services that the public charter school provides directly or indirectly. [Section 15(c)(2)]

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Status of Charter School, Generally

  • Each public charter school is established as its own local educational agency (LEA). [Section 14(b)(1)]
  • This does not preclude a public charter school from working with local school systems for services, etc. [Section 14(b)(1)]
  • This applies for purposes of special education, receipt of funds, interscholastic athletics, and compliance with funding requirements. [Section 14(b)(2)]

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Teachers and Employees

  • In a charter, full-time teachers must either be certified or become certified within 2 years of the date they are hired, with the following exceptions:[Section 14(f)(2)]
    • If they hold an advanced degree in the area in which they teach
    • If they hold a professional certification in the area in which they teach
    • If they have unique expertise of experience in the area in which they teach
  • Teacher tenure and fair dismissal principal contract compliance is optional for public charter schools [Section 14(f)(3)]
  • Criminal history record checks and fingerprinting are required. [Section 14(f)(4)]
  • Allowing enrollment in the Alabama Teachers’ Retirement System and Public Education Employees’ Health Insurance Plan is optional for the public charter school. [Section 14(h)]
  • Public charter schools must make a one-time irrevocable election of whether it will allow its employees to be enrolled in and participate in the Alabama Teacher’s Retirement System and Public Education Employee’s Health Insurance Plan. [Section 14(h)(1)]
  • If the public charter school elects not to participate in the Alabama Teacher’s Retirement System and the Public Education Employee’s Health Insurance Plan, then the funds attributed to an appropriation for the expenses associated with participation in the program will not be forwarded to the public charter school. [Section 14(h)(2)].
  • If the public charter school elects not to participate in the Alabama Teacher’s Retirement System, service shall not be considered as eligible service credit for purposes of calculating public retirement benefits. [Section 14(h)(2)]
  • Must be citizens of the United States (applies to all employees). [Section 14(i)]
  • Must either reside in Alabama or demonstrate intent to establish residency within 120 days of when their employment begins (applies to all employees). [Section 14(i)]
  • In the Senate version, in non-charter public schools where a flexibility contract is being sought by the local board, full-time teachers must either be certified or become certified within 2 years of the date they are hired, with the following exceptions:[Section 5(g)]
    • If they hold an advanced degree in the area in which they teach
    • If they hold a professional certification in the area in which they teach
    • If they have unique expertise of experience in the area in which they teach

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Timeline

  • Public charter schools cannot be opened prior to the 2013-2014 school year. [There is no specific date mentioned in the bill, but because the Council is not created until December 31, 2012, the earliest school year that the Council could serve in a governing capacity is the 2013-2014 school year.]

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Title I Considerations

  • Students eligible for funds under Title I of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act will have those funds available in the public charter school.

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Transfers

  • If a student transfers from a public charter school to any other public school (charter or non-charter) in the state, the new school must accept credits earned by the student in courses at the public charter school in a consistent manner according to the same criteria that are used to accept academic credits from other public schools. [Section 8(c)]

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Transportation

  • Public charters do not have to operate their own transportation system [Section 14(d)(4)]
  • If transportation is provided, a transportation plan must be produced that outlines how the public charter school meets the needs of its students. [Section 14(d)(4)]
  • If transportation is provided, the plan must meet applicable federal and state school-related transportation safety requirements. [Section 14(d)(4)]
  • No funding for transportation will be made available to a public charter school unless it provides transportation. [Section 15(b)(2)]