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Editor’s Note: This information-packed post was originally published here and created by the content staff at WikiHow. It had such a comprehensive list of steps to take for anyone who is considering starting a charter school, we just knew we had to curate it for you here!
Opening up a charter school is certainly an incredibly noble undertaking and usually driven by those who are passionate about providing unique, customizable, and diverse educational opportunities for children. But make no mistake—it is no simple undertaking. Starting up a charter will take both time and energy, so you’ll want to get yourself in the mindset to handle all the ups and downs that you’ll most assuredly face along your journey.
The great news is, charter school movement is on the rise and gaining momentum daily! If you are thinking about starting up a charter school, here are some things you’ll want know from the outset and the steps you’ll need to take to set yourself up for success.
Charter schools are public schools that are run independently from the local school district, but are still required to follow and meet local and state academic standards. These schools are publicly funded by the states they operate in, and they must comply with regular performance reviews. Charter schools provide students with innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and provide parents with a different educational option for their children within the public school system. Not all states allow charter schools, and those that do require that certain guidelines be met by the schools. Learning how to start a charter school in your community can help give your children an alternative, cutting-edge option for education.
1. Check the legality of charter schools. Because charter schools are funded by the states they operate in, each state must pass legislation to determine the legality of opening and operating a charter school there. If you’re interested in starting a charter school, you will first need to determine whether charter schools are permitted in your state.
As of January 2016, the majority of states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that allow charter schools to operate. The states in the U.S. that do not currently permit charter schools include:
Editor’s Note: Charter schools are allowed to operate in Washington, as of the publication date. Kentucky also passed a charter school law in 2017. The remaining states still do not have charter school laws.
2. Check for capacity limits. Of the states that do permit charter schools, approximately half put caps on how many charter schools can operate within that state. Depending on where you live, you may be ineligible to open a charter school due to capacity limits, even if charter schools are generally allowed in your state.
3. Determine if new schools are allowed. In addition to setting limits on the number of charter schools permitted, some states have laws that set limits on the types of charter schools allowed. That means that there may be restrictions on new start-up schools, public school conversions, and/or virtual schools.
1. Assess your level of commitment. Starting a charter school is no easy task. It will take a lot of time and energy, and it will almost certainly be frustrating at times. Before you actually begin the process of starting a charter school, you should decide whether or not you’ll be able to stick with the project, attend meetings, and work with other people to bring your vision to life.
2. Come up with a concept. The main reason for starting a charter school should ultimately be to provide your community with an educational opportunity that does not currently exist. Think about what aspects of a well-rounded education are missing from your children’s current public school options, and think about ways to incorporate those points into your potential charter school.
3. Write a mission statement. Once you have a clear idea of your charter school’s concept, start working on drafting a mission statement. You’ll need to be able to outline your vision to your state’s Department of Education (or equivalent), so work on creating a clear, pragmatic mission and purpose.
4. Establish your governance. Before you can actually start the paperwork to enact your idea for a charter school, you’ll need a board of governance. You’ll need to decide both who is on the board and how that board will function. This is a vital part of any successful charter school, as approximately 27% of all new charter schools were disrupted by internal conflicts within the board.
5. Set a budget. The budget will help determine how your money is spent within the charter school. The governing board members should have a considerable voice in determining the budget, both in terms of how to raise funds as well as how to use those funds.
6. Choose a location. The facilities in which you build and operate your charter school could make or break your charter’s chances of success. It’s seldom as easy as finding a spot and signing the lease. Finding and securing a facility for a charter school often requires some degree of compromise and innovation.
7. Develop your petition. In addition to a mission statement and board of governance, you’ll need to develop a charter petition. This functions similarly to a business plan for a prospective business. It can span hundreds of pages and require extensive research.
1. Visit your state’s Department of Education website. Because charter school laws vary so much from one state to another, it’s important to know your state’s specific guidelines, deadlines, and regulations. There is no single compendium, unfortunately, so you’ll need to learn about the particular forms, applications, and their deadlines required in your state.
2. Draft and submit a letter of intent. Depending on your state’s guidelines and requirements, you may need to write and submit a letter of intent. Depending on where you live, you may need to submit your materials to your local school district, your state’s Department of Education, or to your state’s Charter School Office (if such an office exists in your state). The letter of intent should outline the planning and design you’ve worked on thus far, and should identify the board members you’ve chosen to establish and operate your proposed charter school. A successful charter school letter of intent should include, but may not be limited to:
3. Wait for approval. Once your materials are submitted, you’ll need to wait for authorization to proceed with your school. Most charter schools are authorized by the local school district, but if the school district denies your application you can appeal that decision to the county, and then to the state. Common reasons for a denied application include:
4. Hire faculty and staff. If your charter school is approved, you’ll need teachers, administrators, and facility managers. You may want to consider alumni of alternative teaching programs like Teach for America, or turn to online job listings.
5. Open for enrollment. Once you’ve been approved for operations and you’ve hired a strong faculty and staff, you’re ready to open for enrollment. Remember that you may be bound to certain class size restrictions and other regulations, and always keep your charter school’s mission statement at the forefront of all operations
6. Monitor progress at all levels. The only way to measure success is to monitor the progress (or lack thereof) of your school. Many education boards choose to work with an agency like Measures of Academic Progress (MAP). MAP can assess schools nationwide on a regular basis and provide you with a personalized assessment of your school’s ranking, your students’ progress, and your students’ potential for growth. These results are often delivered within 24 hours, allowing you to keep on top of your your educators’ effectiveness and your students’ learning progress.
The Charter School Growth Manual
Whether you’re just beginning the process of starting up a charter school, looking to expand, or trying to prioritize your next steps, download this eBook to get expert tips and pitfalls to avoid as you grow.
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