What is a charter school?
Charter schools are public schools that are free and open to all students in the districts where they operate, and are accountable for specific results.
A charter school is governed by an independent school board whose focus and responsibility is to oversee that particular school. In exchange for this independence and freedom, charter schools operate under contracts, also known as charters, that establish specific academic and non-academic goals to which they are held accountable. They may be closed for failing to meet the goals or operate in a responsible manner.
What is a "sponsor"?
Charter school sponsors are entities that, under state law, are able to open, oversee, renew and close charter schools. Charter school sponsors, known in some states as “authorizers,” approve the opening of a charter school and hold the charter school accountable for the conditions in their charter. The University of Central Missouri is the sponsor to charter schools in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
How are charter schools held accountable to academic and operational standards?
Charter schools are held accountable in many of the same ways as traditional public schools. Additionally, a charter school must have a sponsor in order to open and continue operating. Specific Missouri statutes, RSMo. Sections 29.205 and 160.400 - 160.425 govern charter schools.
In Missouri, sponsors are typically colleges and universities, such as UCM. A Missouri charter school is accountable to its sponsor for specific academic and non-academic outcomes outlined in the school charter. Charter schools are also held accountable to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education standards. Most important, charter schools are accountable to the students and families attending them. Charter public schools can be closed by their sponsors for failing to meet their contractual obligations.
Where are charter schools located in Missouri?
Under current Missouri law, charter public schools are allowed to operate in:
- The Kansas City and St. Louis school districts.
- A school district that has been declared unaccredited.
- A school district that has been classified as provisionally accredited and has received scores on its annual performance report consistent with a classification of provisionally accredited or unaccredited for three consecutive years.
Who can attend a charter school?
In Missouri, charter schools are only allowed to operate in specific school districts. Any student residing within the boundaries of districts in which charter schools are located is eligible to enroll in charter schools.
How do charter schools get started?
State law requires a sponsor-approved application authorized by the State Board of Education in order to establish a charter school in Missouri. Groups composed of teachers, parents and community members submit application proposals to sponsors to open a charter school. An applicant must have a sponsor and a charter with that sponsoring entity outlining the school’s academic, fiscal, governance and operating outcomes. After the review by the sponsor, application materials are submitted to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for review. The Missouri State Board of Education determines whether or not a charter application is compliant with Missouri laws governing charter schools.
The selection process by sponsors and DESE is essential to having a truly beneficial and sustainable charter public school sector. Applicant groups must present strong school governance models with necessary board member skill sets, a comprehensive business plan demonstrating a high level of fiduciary and operational acumen, a curriculum aligned with Core Academic Standards and an academic program either filling an educational void or introducing an innovative model not currently offered to public school students.
Are charter schools diverse?
Yes. Charter schools have similar demographic characteristics as traditional public schools. Specific charter schools may choose to target a specific population.
Can students with special needs attend charter schools?
Yes. Like all public schools, charter schools are required to accept students with disabilities, limited English proficiency or at-risk students.
Don’t charter schools pick the best students?
Charter schools are open to all students. Many charter schools are created to provide quality educational services to students with high needs. Missouri law requires that one-third of a sponsor’s charter schools must target at-risk students.
Who can open a charter school in Missouri?
Missouri law limits charter school operators to nonprofit corporation established pursuant to RSMo. Chapter 355.