Cuts in federal, state, and local funding for public schools across the country have placed limits on the quality of education districts can offer. Transportation problems, aging facilities, redistricting, and intense pressure to compete with private schools have forced public school systems to re-evaluate their mission and educational philosophies. Reduced wages, benefits, and retirement plans for educators have resulted in an increasing shortage of qualified teachers and administrators.
Disillusioned parents and frustrated educational administrators are taking matters into their own hands by opening charter schools that provide a vehicle for specialized educational programs and redefined goals. Over 6,000 charter schools have opened across the country over the past 15 years, and the trend is showing no signs of slowing down.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) claims there are over one million children on waiting lists in the United States, hoping for the opportunity to be accepted into these schools. Forty-two states and the District of Columbia have already created charter school legislation, but the standards vary greatly from state to state.
All charter schools first start with an idea and a vision. Getting those ideas and visions established into a formalized charter school takes work, perseverance, and commitment from a team of dedicated professionals that share the same ideals.
Here are the basic steps necessary to open a charter school in the United States.
The Petition: In the initial stage of creating a charter school, a petition must be submitted to the local or county Board of Education. The petition must specifically outline the school’s vision, mission, curriculum design, hiring practices, discipline approach, school structure, and communication plan.
This step typically involves intense research, collaboration, and lots of revision before submission.
Board of Education and Community Approval: Once the Board of Education has accepted the petition, it is time for a public hearing. The Board will question what is written in the petition, may request evidence to support the petition, and can require revisions before finalizing their decision.
A public hearing for the community follows and gives parents, businesses, and residents the chance to voice concerns and support for the charter school. Those submitting an application for a charter school must be prepared to answer a myriad of questions from educators, as well as the community.
Implementing the Plan: Once the Board has approved the charter school, the hard work begins. Securing grants will provide the funds necessary to begin finding a location for the school, buying materials to support the curriculum, hiring teachers, and recruiting students. This process can take months to several years to complete.
With minimal funding, marketing becomes a challenge, but utilizing local news stations, newspapers, and social media forums can help get the word out about your school.
Accountability: Once a charter school has been established, proof of learning, as well as plans for continued success, must be provided to the local Board of Education. As charter renewal requirements vary from state to state, charter school boards and administrators must ensure that they are in compliance with their state’s laws.
The West Chester education lawyers at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser LLC provide legal counsel for all your educational law issues. Call us at 484-318-7106 or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our West Chester offices serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Chester County, and Pennsylvania.