Here’s the thing: there’s more than one way to skin a charter school.
There are two kinds of charter schools – start-up charters (which is what most everyone on this blog and the AJC blog references) and conversion charters. Further, thanks to former state senator Dan Weber, it is also possible to start a conversion charter cluster.
Conversion charters do not have to worry finding about a facility. Conversion charters do not have to budget for maintenance, repairs and utilities. Conversion charters do not have to worry about meeting payroll.
This means conversion charters can focus solely on educating their students.
Like all charter schools a conversion charter begins with a plan, a proposal and a petition to the local school board. Begin by going here for answers to general questions about charter schools. Parents and community members should go here for answers to their questions while new petitioners will find answers to their questions here. Finally, be sure to look at this PowerPoint presentation, “So You Want To Start A Charter School?” from the Georgia Department of Education.
Charter schools are tax-supported public schools, but with the autonomy, flexibility and accountability that traditional public schools lack. Charter schools are governed, not by a local board of education, but by an autonomous non-profit board of directors or governance council, and they receive flexibility from certain state and local rules and regulations in exchange for a higher level of accountability. Charter school that don’t meet the terms of their charter and fail to successfully educate students can be closed. When was the first, last or any other time that you saw a traditional public school closed for failing to educate its students?
A charter school can and should specify, in its charter, all the things that will positively affect student education – including selecting the school’s administrators and staff. Remember, teachers and administrators do not sign a contract for a specific school; their contracts are with DeKalb County Schools generally. A charter school’s board or governance council may handle all hiring, budgeting, planning and policy-making or it may delegate some of those responsibilities to the administrative team they hired.
Conversion charter schools, like start-up charters may obtain a 501(c)(3) designation from the IRS. Conversion charters may also set up a foundation, also designated a 501(c)(3) entity and attached to the school, to accept donations and to hold grant funding, if any is obtained.
Interested in working with other parents, with teachers and with community members to explore the possibility of converting your neighborhood traditional school to a charter school? Maybe you are interested in turning your cluster into a charter cluster? We have heard a few particularly good ideas that involve an entire cluster. Here are the guidelines to starting a charter school.
Converting your neighborhood school to a charter school is the way to take back our schools.