What is a charter school?

A charter school is an independently run public school that is granted flexibility in operations in return for higher accountability for performance. Each charter school is bound by its “charter," or contract, which establishes the academic, operational, financial, and school climate and culture expectations as well as the school’s mission, program, and methods of assessment. Charter schools must accept all students, are tuition-free, and are subject to Kentucky Open Records and Open Meetings law.

What is the difference between charter schools and other public schools?

Charter schools are schools of choice, meaning families can choose a charter school for their children. Charter schools are not directed by the district and, therefore, are able to make decisions regarding curriculum, resources, and hiring without going through the same process as a district school. Charter schools are accountable for academic results and for ensuring compliance with their contract. If a charter school does not adhere to its contract or demonstrates poor academic, financial, or operational performance, it can be closed.

What does an authorizer do?

Kentucky law provides for different types of authorizers. All local school boards are automatically authorizers. Additionally, local school boards may work with other local school boards to create a collaborative to authorize a charter school. Finally, the mayors of Louisville and Lexington may file a Notice of Intent to authorize.

The authorizer receives and evaluates charter school applications and then decides if a charter school should come into existence. The application review process is rigorous and requires detailed information from the applicant regarding how he or she envisions opening a new school. The authorizer will complete application reviews, perform applicant interviews, coordinate community forum presentations, and ultimately provide the local board of education a recommendation as to whether or not a charter application should be considered for approval.

Once a charter school is approved, the authorizer monitors the school’s performance. Monitoring can consist of periodic reporting, walk-throughs, and a final summative report. In Kentucky, the initial term of the charter contract is five years. Once the term of the contract is set to expire, the authorizer will take each year’s summative evaluation and provide the local board a recommendation as to whether or not the charter school’s contract should be renewed.

Do charter schools have attendance boundaries?

Charter schools do not have to adhere to the district’s student assignment plan as do district schools. However, charter schools may only enroll students from within the county in which the charter school is located.

Do charter schools have admission requirements?

No, charter schools do not have admission requirements or entrance exams. When demand for enrollment exceeds the spaces available in the charter school, a charter school shall hold a randomized, blind lottery to determine which students are admitted or may preference students by need or location.

Do charter schools charge tuition?

No, charter schools are tuition-free, public schools.

Are parents required to volunteer?

No, while parental involvement is a critical factor to student success, a charter school may not require parental involvement as a condition of enrollment. No student may be punished or lose his or her place at a school based on a parent's volunteer hours or financial contribution to the school.

How is oversight provided to charter schools?

Charter schools must operate in accordance with state and federal law. They must abide by health and safety laws, as well as civil and disability protections, and cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Charter school governing bodies are subject to various laws that apply to nonprofit public benefit organizations, such as ethical financial practices, and public body rules, such as open meeting laws. Also, like all public school districts, charter schools must have an annual independent financial audit in accordance with state law. Charter schools also have oversight from their authorizers. Authorizers review financial reports and academic and organizational performance, and they have the authority to conduct audits to determine if the charter school should be renewed at the end of the charter school's term (five years). An authorizer can revoke a charter school for violations of law, fiscal mismanagement, or if the school is not meeting pupil academic outcomes or the terms of its charter.

Do charter school teachers have to be certified?

In Kentucky, charter schools are required to hire certified teachers just like all traditional public schools.