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Charter Petition Review and Criteria for Approval

Anyone other than a for-profit entity may develop, circulate, and submit a petition to establish a charter school. Education Code section 47605(a) requires charter developers to collect signatures to indicate support for the petition. For a new charter school that is not a conversion of an existing public school, petitioners must obtain the signatures of either 50 percent of the teachers that the school estimates will be employed at the school in its first year of operation or 50 percent of the parents of pupils that the school estimates will enroll in the school in its first year of operation. The petition must contain a prominent statement that a signature means that the person signing is meaningfully interested in teaching in, or in having his or her child(ren) attend, the school, and the proposed charter must be attached to the petition.
Education Code section 47605 specifies that a local school district shall grant a charter petition if it is satisfied that granting the charter is consistent with sound educational practice and with the interests of the community in which the school is proposing to locate. In determining whether to grant a charter petition, the governing board shall consider the academic needs of the pupils the school proposes to serve. A district may only deny approval of a charter petition if it makes written factual findings, specific to the particular petition, that:

  • The charter school presents an unsound educational program for the pupils to be enrolled in the charter school.
  • The petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition.
  • The petition does not contain the required number of signatures.
  • The petition does not contain an affirmation of each of the conditions described in Education Code section 47605(e).
  • The petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of all of the 15 required elements of the petition, as set forth in Education Code section 47605(c)(5)(A)-(O). (see description of 15 elements below)
  • The petition does not contain a declaration of whether or not the charter school shall be deemed the exclusive public employer of the employees of the charter school for purposes of the Educational Employment Relations Act.
  • The charter school is demonstrably unlikely to serve the interests of the entire community in which the school is proposing to locate.
  • The school district is not positioned to absorb the fiscal impact of the proposed charter school.

A charter petition must contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of each of 15 required elements. State regulations provide guidance on analyzing whether descriptions of each element is “reasonably comprehensive.” The 15 elements, as specified in Education Code section 47605(c)(5)(A)-(O), are:

  • A description of the educational program of the school.
  • The measurable pupil outcomes to be used by the school.
  • The method by which the school will measure pupil progress in meeting pupil outcomes.
  • The school’s governance structure, including parental involvement.
  • Qualifications to be met by individuals employed by the school.
  • Procedures to ensure health and safety of pupils and staff.
  • Means by which the school will achieve racial and ethnic balance among its pupils that reflect the general population residing in the district.
  • Admission requirements, if applicable.
  • The manner in which annual financial audits will be conducted, and the manner in which audit exceptions and deficiencies will be resolved.
  • Procedures by which pupils may be suspended or expelled.
  • Provisions for employee coverage under the State Teachers Retirement System, the Public Employees Retirement System, or federal Social Security.
  • Public school alternatives for pupils residing within the district who choose not to attend charter schools.
  • A description of the rights of any employee of the school district upon leaving the employment of the school district to work in a charter school, and of any rights of return to the school district after employment at a charter school.
  • Process by which disputes between the charter school and the charter authorizer will be resolved.
  • Procedures to be used if the charter school closes.

A charter school petition must also provide information regarding the proposed operation and potential effects of the charter school—including, but not limited to, the facilities to be used by the charter school, the manner in which administrative services of the charter school are to be provided, and potential civil liability effects, if any, upon the charter school and upon the school district. The petition must specify where the charter school intends to locate.
Charter school petitioners are also required to provide financial statements that include a proposed first-year operational budget, including startup costs, and cashflow and financial projections for the first three years of operation. The Mayacamas Charter Middle School petition proposed budget has been posted for public review, together with the petition, [here].
If the school is to be operated by or as a nonprofit public benefit corporation, the petitioner must provide the names and relevant qualifications of all persons whom the petitioner nominates to serve on the governing body of the charter school.