Definition

Charter schools are free, public schools that are open to all students. A charter school gives parents the choice of sending their children to a school that uses innovative methods to provide a quality education.

May 14, 2014

U.S. Department of Education Catherine E. Lhamon Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

Dear Colleague Letter - Charter Schools:

The Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces a number of Federal civil rights laws that apply to charter schools. These Federal civil rights laws and the specific legal obligations discussed in this letter apply to all public charter schools in the United States, regardless of whether they receive Federal funds under the Department's Charter Schools Program. In addition, charter schools that receive funds–either directly or through a State educational agency (SEA)–under a Department grant program, such as the Charter Schools Program, are subject to the additional requirements of each grant program.

Download Charter Schools Letter

What's New?

Coming Fall 2015 (6/18/2015)
  1. An IEP Handbook
  2. New editions of the Special Education forms
  3. New, easier to use Specific Learning Disability forms
Look for notices from the SDE to be posted here.

FAQ

Charter Schools are:

  • Legislatively authorized public schools
  • Free and available for all students
  • Funded according to the per pupil funding formula
  • Held accountable for student achievement
  • Held accountable for all federal and state laws
  • Entrepreneurial and reform oriented
  • Non-profit corporations
  • Operated by independent board of directors

Unlike other public schools, Charter schools:

  • Are created by application to district/commission
  • Operate as non-profit corporations and use business principles
  • Require parent involvement
  • Assume all children learn differently and benefit from a diverse range of educational approaches
  • By design are entrepreneurial and/or reform oriented
  • Accountable for results
  • Can be closed for lack of results – academic or financial

Legislative Intent:

  • Improve student learning
  • Increase learning opportunities
  • Allow different and innovative teaching methods
  • Utilize distance and on-line learning
  • Create professional opportunities for teachers and administrators
  • Provide expanded choices
  • Increase accountability

Choice, Accountability, Freedom

  • Establish unique learning opportunities
  • Open enrollment – not required to attend
  • Create sense of ownership for all stakeholders
  • Provide opportunities to start over
  • Utilize resources outside the traditional education community
  • Empowers stakeholders
  • Must meet requirements of the Charter contract
  • Meet federal and state requirements
  • Non-profit public business
  • Stakeholder satisfaction
  • Drive changes in instruction and learning environment
  • Less bureaucracy
  • Tap into educators’ motivations
  • Flexibility within the law

LEA= local education agencies

Traditionally an LEA is defined as an entity that has responsibility for the education of all children who reside within a designated geographical area of a state. Charter schools do not completely fit into this definition since they are schools of choice and have responsibility only for students who are enrolled in the school. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its regulations specifically include charter schools in the definition of an LEA: "a public charter school that is established as an LEA under State law" [34 CFR §300.18]. The place a charter school occupies in Idaho’s public education system depends on the charter school's legal identity, usually referred to as a charter school's LEA status.

Under federal requirements, an LEA has many more programmatic and financial responsibilities than a school that is only a part of an LEA. While the state is ultimately responsible for the education of all its resident children, states typically assign the responsibility to their LEAs for providing a free appropriate public education (FAPE). In addition, LEA status determines how funds for special education will flow to the charter school.

The major effect of LEA status on charter school operations is the type of linkage that is mandated or voluntarily established between that charter school and another LEA. In Idaho, a charter school is either:

NO LINK: the charter school is a separate LEA, has full responsibility for special education, and has no link to another LEA (although a charter could negotiate some working relationship with an LEA if the charter school and LEA agree to do so) OR

PARTIAL LINK: the charter is considered a part of an LEA. The LEA is responsible for all students, including those with disabilities. The delivery of special education services is defined in a negotiated agreement between the charter school and the LEA. For example, the charter school may have responsibility for services, but the LEA carries out evaluation team tasks, or the charter school contracts with the LEA for all or some special education services.

Why is linkage important? Linkage defines the way responsibilities for special education evaluation and services will be carried out. There is a high degree of variability in link situations. Idaho code is not completely clear on the details of linkage for special education in charter schools, so the specifics have to be negotiated between the charter school and the LEA. Often, some responsibilities are assigned while other operational elements are not. It is critical for a charter school to arrange in advance and commit to writing, as clearly as possible, an understanding with the LEA(s) to avoid future problems

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    Contact Us

    William Morriss
    Special Populations Coordinator
    Phone: 208-332-6915
    wmorriss@sde.idaho.gov
    sde Idaho State Department of Education
    650 W. State Street
    PO Box 83720
    Boise, ID 83720-0027