This page now compares only the House (HB650) and Senate (SB513) versions of the Education Options Act of 2012.  For a complete history of the evolution of the Education Options Act of 2012, visit this Charter School Legislation Archive page.

SENATE VERSION PASSED. UPDATE:  May 3, 2012:  The Senate passed a substitute version of SB513 with an amendment and it now sits in the House for passage.  Here is the link to the Substituted bill.  Here is a link to the Ross Amendment.

Major differences in the House and Senate versions include:

  • SB513 gives the state department of education the right to 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 first year of priority status.  In the House version, the state assumes that responsibility after the third year of priority status.
  • SB513 specifies that charter schools can only be authorized in a county that does not contain a Class 3, or larger, municipality.  A Class 3 municipality is one that contains at least 100,000 people. No minimum population requirement is placed on charter schools in the House version.
  • SB513 allows only for the existence of a conversion charter school.  No start-up charters will be allowed.  Start-up charters are allowed in the House version.
  • SB513 specifies that education service providers (ESPs) must be nonprofits and are specifically prohibited from subcontracting with or affiliating in any way with any for-profit entity for the management or operation of any of the following types of services: instructional, transportation, janitorial or health services.  ESPs in charters may subcontract with for-profit entities for services and items that public non-charter schools do.  HB650 allows ESPs to be for-profit and to subcontract with for-profit entities.
  • SB513 specifies that ESPs must be “organized under the laws of the United States, with a citizen of the United States serving as chief executive officer and with the board of directors being comprised solely of United States citizens”.  [This probably excludes the Gulen charter schools from operating in Alabama, which has been a concern of some due to the controversy surrounding the movement.]  HB650 has no such language.
  • SB513 specifies that public charter school applications must include a “statement of assurance” that any and all employees working in the school or affiliated with the school including with ESPs shall be subject to “verification of immigration status and a criminal background check”.  HB650 has no language regarding the immigration status or background checks.
  • SB513 specifies that public charter schools must acquire real property for use as its facility “at or below fair market value”.  HB650 states only that public charter schools are allowed to acquire real property.
  • SB513 mandates teachers and other employees in public charter schools be allowed the option to participate in the Alabama Teachers’ Retirement Program and the Public Education Employees ‘ Health Plan.  Under the House version, public charter schools were given an option as to whether to offer retirement and health insurance to employees.
  • SB513 affords teachers in public charter schools protection under tenure laws and specifies that state minimum salary schedule must be used.  HB650 specifically exempts teachers in public charter schools from tenure protections.
  • SB513 affords principals in public charter schools protection under laws governing principal contracts where HB650 specifically exempts principals from those protections.
  • SB513 requires that all members of the local legislative delegation unanimously consent to the formation of a charter school before one can be considered. This is known as the “Ross Amendment“.  No such language exists in the House version.
  • SB513 allows the same flexibility in teacher certification for innovative school systems as it does for public charter schools.  HB650 does not afford that flexibility to public non-charter schools.

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How to Use This Page

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

Any item contained only in HB650 will be written in green.  Any item contained only in SB513 will be written in red.

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
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 standardsassessment 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

  • 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 first year of priority status.” [Section 7(f)]
  • 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 is only in the House version.
  • 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 20 charters can be authorized. [Section 11(d)(4)]

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Charter School Application Review Council [Section 6]

  • 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].
    • 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. [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 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].  The only type of charter school the Council can authorize under SB513 is a conversion public charter school. [Section 9(c)3]
    • 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.
    • The Council cannot authorize a public charter school in any county that does not contain a Class 3, or larger, municipality.  A Class 3 municipality is one that contains at least 100,000 people.

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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]
  • Any remaining funds must be returned to the 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 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)]
  • Conversion charter schools are the only charters allowed in the state of Alabama. under SB513.

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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)]
    • ESPs must be nonprofit. [Section 4(9)]
    • ESPs must be “organized under the laws of the United States, with a citizen of the United Statesserving as chief executive officer and with the board of directors being comprised solely of United States citizens.” [Section 4(9)]
    • Public charter school applicants must include a “statement of assurance” that any and all employees working for the ESP and any affiliate or subordinate business entity shall be subject to verification of immigration status and a criminal background check. [Section 10(c)(8)]
    • ESPs are specifically prohibited from subcontracting with or affiliating in any way with any for-profit entity for the management or operation of any of the following types of services: instructional, transportation, janitorial or health services, but may contract with for-profit entities for services that public non-charter schools use for-profit entities to provide. [Section 14(c)(4)]

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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.
  • Language regarding founding members’ children’s ability to obtain priority enrollment in a charter school is deleted in SB513.  In this version, there are no start-up charters, only conversions, so there will be no “founding members’ children” whose enrollment must be considered.

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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.
  • Public charter schools may acquire property for their facility at or below fair market value. [Section 14(c)(8)]
  • Charter schools may apply for grants and accept donations for facility funding. [Section 15(i)]
  • Charter schools 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. [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 no 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 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)]
  • 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

  • Priority local school is defined as a “non-charter public 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.” (Section 4(17)]
  • 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 first 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 [Section 15(c)(2)]
  • Local aid attributable to a student with a disability will be paid directly to the public charter school [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

  • The state minimum salary schedule cannot be waived for certificated personnel and school nurses under the innovation school system status. [Section 5(g)]
  • A school system cannot waive any requirement under the state Foundation Program under the innovation school system status. [Section 5(g)].
  • In a public non-charter school, 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(h)]
    • 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
  • In a public charter school, 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 principal contract compliance is optional for public charter schools [Section 14(f)(3)] This is only in the House version.
  • Teachers in public charter schools are entitled to protections under tenure laws. [Section 14(f)(3)]
  • Principals in public charter schools are entitled to protections under laws governing principal contracts. [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)] This is only in the House version.
  • 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)]  This is only in the House version.
  • 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)]. This is only in the House version.
  • 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)]  This is only in the House version.
  • 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
  • Teachers are entitled to pay based on the minimum salary schedule for the State.  [Section 14(f)(3)]

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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)]