|Q: What should be the focus of a Maryland public charter school?|
A: The public charter school represents a choice for parents and may provide innovative learning opportunities and creative educational approaches to improve the education of students. Public charter schools strive for high academic standards and are accountable for results for student performance as any other public school.
Q: What requirements are imposed on Maryland public charter schools?
A: Public charter schools are subject to any federal, state, and local policies, regulations and statutes that affect traditional elementary and secondary public schools unless certain policies, procedures or regulations are waived by local education authorities or the State Board of Education, as appropriate.
Q: What is the process for establishing a public charter school in Maryland?
A: Each local board of education will establish policies and procedures that describe the process to be used by public charter school applicants in that school system. Public charter school operators must follow those procedures and use the application process established by the local board of education in the jurisdiction where the public charter school will operate. Public charter schools operate under the supervision of the public chartering authority from which its Charter Agreement is granted.
Q: Who is eligible to submit an application for a public charter school?
A: Public charter school applications may be submitted to the local board of education by the staff of a public school, a parent or guardian of a student who attends a public school in the county/city, a nonsectarian nonprofit entity, a nonsectarian institution of higher education in the state, or any combination of the above.
Q: Who is responsible for completing the application?
A: The applicant is responsible for the completion of the application and compliance with all laws, regulations, policies and procedures.
Q: To whom will the public charter school operators report?
A: Public charter school operators report to the public chartering authority from which it's Charter Agreement is granted.
Q: May a restructured school become a public charter school?
A: Yes, in accordance with state regulations (COMAR 13A.01.04.07C) and local procedures.
Q: May 'start-up' funds be provided for public charter schools?
A: There are specific charter school grant funds available for the Pre-Planning, Planning and Design and Implementation phases of charter school operation. These competitive funds are available through the Federal Charter School Grant Program managed by the Maryland State Department of Education. Check the MSDE website for more details on these funds.
Q: How are public charter schools funded?
A: The local board of education will disburse to public charter schools an amount of county, state and federal money that is commensurate with the amount disbursed to other public schools in the local jurisdiction. Additionally, surplus educational materials, supplies, furniture and other equipment may be given to the public charter school by the state or local board of education.
Q: May public charter schools charge tuition?
A: No. Public charter schools are public schools and may not charge tuition to residents of the jurisdiction where the school is located. As authorized by Maryland statutes and regulations, a local school system may charge tuition to out-of-district students.
Q: May a local board of education assess an application fee for establishing a public charter school?
A: There is no basis in Maryland's public charter school law authorizing the assessment of fees.
Q: What is the enrollment process for public charter schools?
A: Public charter schools are open to all students on a space-available basis, and on a lottery basis if more students apply than can be accommodated.
Q: May private or religious schools convert to public charter schools?
A: A public charter school may not be a private school, a parochial school or a home school.
Q: Can public schools convert to public charter schools?
A: Yes. Existing public schools can convert to public charter schools.
Q: Who will review and evaluate public charter school applications?
A: Public charter school applications will be reviewed and evaluated by the county board of education in which the charter school will be established.
Q: Can the local board of education's decisions on charter applications be appealed?
A: Yes. Appeals will be heard by the State Board of Education in accordance with the requirements of the Public Charter School Act of 2003.
Q: Is there a specified number of years for which a charter will be granted?
A: No. However, a local board of education may develop requirements of a specific term as well any standards for renewal of the Charter Agreement.
Q: How are public charter schools held accountable to standards?
A: The public charter school will meet current accountability provisions of local education authorities and state regulations and statutes. The public charter school must provide documentation to the chartering authority regarding fiscal accountability and performance on recognized academic measures as agreed upon in the Charter Agreement.
Q: What kinds of flexibility do public charter schools receive?
A: Public charter schools will receive flexibility in a number of areas, principally in the areas of management and administrative structure, staffing, educational programming, curriculum/instructional focus, program emphasis and budgeting, in exchange for high academic performance. Additional areas of flexibility may be negotiated between the public charter school and the local board of education.
Q: What buildings can house public charter schools?
A: Public charter school buildings must meet all federal, state and local facility, health and safety standards and the building must be appropriate for the education program being offered and must be accessible in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Q: Are public charter school personnel employees of the school system?
A: Employees of a public charter school are public school employees of the county/city in which the public charter school is located. If a collective bargaining agreement is already in existence in the county/city where a public charter school is located, the public charter school employees are covered by the terms and conditions in that contract; however, the public charter school and the employee organization may mutually agree to negotiate amendments to the existing agreement to address the needs of the particular public charter school and approved by the local school board.
Q: May public charter schools employ non-certified educators?
A: The professional staff of a public charter school must have the appropriate Maryland certification.
Q: Can volunteers work in the public charter school?
A: Yes. All staff and volunteers in public charter schools must meet required state and local background checks.
Q: Will public charter school staff receive professional development?
A: Public charter school staff will receive the same services as public school staff in that jurisdiction unless indicated in the Charter Agreement.
Q: Are educational support services available to public charter schools? A: The local board of education will provide technical support through the designated public charter school contact. The Maryland State Department of Education is also available to provide technical assistance to the operators of a public charter school to help the school meet the requirements of federal and state laws.
Q: Will transportation services be provided for students to/from the public charter school?
A: Students attending public charter schools should receive the same services as students attending other public schools in that jurisdiction. Transportation services are subject to agreements outlined in the Charter Agreement. Transportation services are to be provided to students with disabilities in accordance with their Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Q: Will the public charter school have extra-curricular activities such as sports?
A: Yes. Public charter schools can offer extra-curricular and supplemental services as described in the educational program.
Q: May students with disabilities attend a public charter school?
A: Yes. Public charter school operators must fulfill the responsibilities related to children with disabilities. Public charter schools are open to all students on a non-discriminatory basis.
Q: What ages should the public charter school accept?
A: Public charter schools may support the ages that provide a program of elementary or secondary education, or both.
Q: Will public charter school students participate in assessments?
A: The measurement of student academic achievement must include all assessments required for other public schools and other assessments mutually agreed upon by the public chartering authority and the public charter school.
Carol Beck, Charter Schools Director
Office of School Innovations
Division of Student, Family, and School Support
Maryland State Department of Education
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: (410) 767-3678
Fax: (410) 333-0880