District Charter Schools

Colorado was one of the first states in the nation to implement charter schools. In 1993, the Colorado General Assembly enacted the Charter Schools Act that authorizes the local board of education to enter into a charter with parents, teachers or others to operate a school. [C.R.S. § 22-30.5-101 et seq.] A charter school is a public, nonsectarian, nonreligious, non-homebound school that continues to be a part of the public school district in accordance with the terms and conditions of the charter. Each charter school must be organized as a nonprofit entity and must have its own independent governing board, even if the charter school is managed by a private, for-profit management provider. The charter school and its board are accountable to the local board for compliance with the charter. Charter schools are subject to all laws governing public schools, unless specific requirements are waived as part of the charter process. The charter school is responsible for its own operation, including budget, personnel and contracts.

Among other things, the application to create a charter school must include: a mission statement; evidence that an adequate number of parents, teachers and pupils support the formation of a charter school; and a description of the charter school’s research-based educational program, pupil performance standards and curriculum, which must meet or exceed any academic standards adopted by the local school board. Students enrolled in the charter school are included in the pupil enrollment of the school district within which the pupil resides.

The charter application process and the contract between the district and the charter school are heavily regulated by state law. Smaller school districts that do not have existing charters and staff familiar with these laws should seek assistance from legal counsel or knowledgeable consultants as soon as possible after the district learns an application will be submitted.

It is also important for the board to adopt a local policy and regulation to govern the charter application process, including all contracts and appeals of local board decisions, and to govern all aspects of the board’s oversight of the charter school. CASB sample policies and procedures contain all requirements for charter school applications and oversight it believes to be necessary by law or good practice. These policies and regulations should be in place before an application is submitted.