Kentucky charter law — a guide to the Bluegrass State’s public charter school contract requirements

As highlighted in this series, the regulations developed to ensure compliance with the Bluegrass State’s charter school laws have been subject to deliberation and revision. Much of the discussion has focused on the application and contract requirements. This is because charter school success depends on some of the very first documents ever written surrounding the school – primarily the charter school application and the contract.

In follow up to a previous overview of the application, charter school contract requirements are detailed in this article.

Once a charter school applicant is approved, the authorizer and applicant will have a period of seventy-five (75) days in which to negotiate and enter into a binding charter school contract which sets the academic and operational performance measures and expectations by which the charter school will be evaluated.

The following are critical items that each charter school contract must include:

  1. The term of the contract;
  2. Any additional agreements as modified or supplemented during the approval process;
  3. The rights and duties of each party;
  4. The administrative relationship between the authorizer and the public charter school;
  5. The allocation of state, local, and federal funds, and the authorizer’s schedule to disburse funds to the public charter school;
  6. The process the authorizer will use to provide oversight, including annual site visits;
  7. The specific commitments of the public charter school authorizer relating to its obligations to oversee, monitor, and supervise the public charter school;
  8. The process and criteria the authorizer will use to annually monitor and evaluate the overall academic, operating, and fiscal conditions of the public charter school, including the process the authorizer will use to oversee any necessary corrective action plans;
  9. The process for revision or amendment to the terms of the charter contract agreed to by the authorizer and the board of directors of the public charter school;
  10. The process agreed to by the authorizer and the board of directors of the public charter school that identifies how disputes will be handled; and
  11. Any other terms and conditions agreed to by the authorizer and the board of directors, including pre-opening conditions. Reasonable conditions must not include enrollment caps or operational requirements that place undue constraints on a public charter school or are contradictory to the intent of the law, even when incorporated in a charter contract, and must be considered unilaterally imposed conditions.

Performance provisions of a public charter school contract must be based on a performance framework that sets forth the academic and operational performance indicators, measures, and metrics to be used by the authorizer to evaluate each school.

The performance framework must include, at a minimum, indicators, measures and metrics for the following:

      1. Student academic proficiency;
      2. Student academic growth;
      3. Achievement gaps in both student proficiency and student growth between student subgroups, including race, sex, socioeconomic status, and areas o exceptionality;
      4. Student attendance;
      5. Student suspensions;
      6. Student withdrawals;
      7. Student exits;
      8. Recurrent enrollment from year to year;
      9. College or career readiness at the end of grade twelve (12);
      10. Financial performance and sustainability; and
      11. Board of directors’ performance and stewardship, including compliance with all applicable statutes, administrative regulations, and terms of the charter contract.
        a. The performance framework must allow inclusion of additional rigorous, valid and reliable indicators proposed by a charter school to augment external evaluations of its performance. Indicators must be consistent with the purposes of the law and must be negotiated with the authorizer.
        b. The performance framework must require disaggregation of student performance data by subgroups.
        c. The authorizer must be responsible for collecting, analyzing and reporting to the state board all state-required assessment and achievement data for each of its schools.
      12. Annual student achievement performance targets set in accordance with the state accountability system,and those measures must be designed to help each school meet federal state and authorizer goals.
      13. The charter contract must be signed by the chair of the governing board of the authorizer and the chair of the board of directors of the public charter school.
      14. No public charter school may commence operations without a fully executed contract approved in an open meeting of the governing board of the authorizer.

Charter contracts are entered into between the authorizer and the governing board of the public charter school, who must have all corporate powers necessary to carry out a public charter school program. The powers granted to a public charter school constitute the performance of essential public purposes and governmental purposes of the state of Kentucky.

Within five (5) days after entering into a charter contract, a fully executed charter contract must be submitted by the authorizer to the commissioner of education. Approved charter contracts are issued by charter school authorizers for a term of five (5) years.

No later than one (1) calendar year prior to the expiration date of a charter contract, an authorizer must issue a public charter school performance report and charter renewal application guidance to each authorized charter school. A charter contract may be renewed by the authorizer for a term of five (5) years, although the authorizer may vary the term to as few as three (3) years. Any variation must be solely based on the performance, demonstrated capacities, and particular circumstances of the school. Authorizers may also grant renewal with specific conditions for necessary improvements, but may not impose conditions inconsistent with the law.

Public charter school contracts are detailed by design. They are created to establish the structure on which the school will operate for the approved term, and are the basis for how the authorizer will hold the school accountable for academic and operational performance.

Please contact Adkins & Co. (502-512-0202) or with any questions or to discuss. More information will be provided at a later date.

This article is the fifth in a series published by Adkins & Company, a Kentucky-based consulting group whose mission is to position charter schools for success by providing boards, operators and authorizers with access to high quality services and expertise.

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