How are charter schools funded?
A charter school is a school funded by the government, but operated by a private company that manages schools. In Texas their are four types of government agencies that can initiate a charter school. They are the State Board of Education, any public university (e.g. Univ. of Texas), any community or junior college (e.g. Austin Community College), and any ISD school district. The relationship of the government agency that charters the school and the management company is governed by a legal contract, which describes the following:
1. How much money will the management company receive monthly for each student in attendance at the school?
2. What type of curriculum will be used?
3. When and how much time are the students required to attend school? For example, a very well-known charter manager, KIPP Academy, requires their students to arrive at school at 7AM and stay until 5:30PM, attend school on Saturday, and have a shorter summer break.
4. How will the students dress? Uniform or dress code?
5. What age groups will be served?
……… and many other details.
Is there a tuition cost to attend?
No, there is no tuition cost to the parents, since the government agency pays the bill.
How much does the government pay?
Regarding funding rates, I would refer you to the Texas Charter School Assoc. website, txcharterschools.org. That website reports that charter schools receive from the government $2,009 per child LESS annually than the average traditional public school.
Is there a independent auditing mechanism in place and controlled by the group that helped create it to ensure everything is legitimate?
Yes, the charter school must present their financial reports annually to the chartering agency and are always subject to audit.
If it is managed by a private enterprise who sets the curriculum?
As mentioned above, the curriculum choices are part of the charter contract.
Are charter schools faith based or independent?
No, charter schools cannot have any required religious courses or activities.
Are the teachers paid at the same rate as in traditional public schools?
No, the teachers’ pay and all hiring and firing is determined by the private management company.
If parents/neighborhoods help convert a school will they retain power to enforce change on the school if the private non-profit entity that manages the school veers away from the group’s confidence? That is, can the same group that helped create a school retain influence to ensure the school sticks to the roots that helped create it?
Although the details of the bill are not finalized, I hope that the parents will have the authority by another petition of a majority of the parents to change the management company for whatever reason they choose.
Lastly, sometimes the best of intentions go bad for whatever reasons. If a charter school is failing, what are the procedures to correct the problem(s) fast and effectively?
In the contract of all charter schools, the school must test their students every year just as the traditional public schools and are given a “school grade”. They must maintain a certain level of academic excellence or the contract is terminated.