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Education Laws and Regulations

603 CMR 1.00:
Charter Schools

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1.04: Charter Application and Procedures for Granting Charters

(1) Charter Application Process: Applicants shall submit to the Department application materials in accordance with the schedule, application form, and guidelines established by the Department for each type of charter school. Each applicant submitting application materials for a Commonwealth charter school shall also send a copy of the application to the superintendent of the school district(s) from which the applicant is expected to enroll students.

(a) Horace Mann applications shall be accepted in three categories with the corresponding district approvals:
  1. A Horace Mann I application may be submitted to create a new school, provided the application is submitted with the approval of the local collective bargaining unit and the school committee in the district in which it is located. All Horace Mann charters granted before January 2010 are considered Horace Mann I.
  2. A Horace Mann II application may be submitted as a conversion of an existing public school provided the application is submitted with the approval of the school committee. Horace Mann II applications may be submitted at any time but shall participate in the application process in accordance with guidelines issued by the Department, with similar periods of time for review and charter granting. Horace Mann II charter schools may not open until completion of the opening procedures process.
  3. A Horace Mann III application may be submitted to create a new school provided the application is submitted with the approval of the school committee. An agreement with the local collective bargaining unit is not required prior to Board approval of a Horace Mann III charter school.
(b) All Horace Mann charter schools may be exempt from specified provisions of local collective bargaining agreements, provided that employees of the school will continue:
  1. to be members of the local collective bargaining unit;
  2. to accrue seniority; and
  3. to receive at minimum, the salary and benefits established by the local collective bargaining agreement. Consistent with M.G.L. c. 71, § 89, Horace Mann charter school employees will be exempt from all agreed-upon provisions of the collective bargaining agreement and school committee policies to the extent provided by their charter and the Memorandum of Understanding with the local district or collective bargaining unit or as voted by teachers as defined in M.G.L. c. 71, § 89.
(c) Applications for Horace Mann charter schools shall describe in the charter school application:
  1. the type of Horace Mann charter the applicant seeks (I, II, III);
  2. the proposed opening date of the charter school;
  3. the elements of the local collective bargaining agreement that apply to employees of the school; and
  4. the Memorandum of Understanding under which the charter school proposes to operate.
(d) The Memorandum or Memoranda of Understanding must be consistent with M.G.L. c. 71, § 89; 603 CMR 1.00; and any guidelines issued by the Department and must include at a minimum:
  1. the services, both instructional and non-instructional, that the local school district will provide to the charter school;
  2. the facilities provided by the district;
  3. any waivers to applicable collective bargaining agreements; and
  4. financial information, including, but not limited to:
    1. the basis for calculating tuition;
    2. a method for determining the arrangements between the charter school and the district regarding costs of services;
    3. the date of the charter school's first annual budget allocation from the district, consistent with the allocation for other public schools in the district and the basis on which future tuition allocations will be made;
    4. the schedule for school district funds to be transferred into the charter school's bank account;
    5. responsibility for securing federal and state entitlement grants for the charter school; and
    6. the procedures to be used for resolving disputes.

(2) Review Process: The Department shall review application materials submitted in accordance with deadlines established by the Department. The role of any reviewer is solely advisory. Application materials will be reviewed and evaluated in accordance with criteria outlined in 603 CMR 1.04 and the charter school application itself. In addition, the Department will conduct interviews with all final applicants in order to better assess their qualifications and capacity to start and operate a charter school.

(3) Evaluation and Approval of Charter Applications. The Department reviews applications to ensure that the applicant has, at a minimum, demonstrated the capacity:

(a) to further the purposes for establishment of charter schools specified in M.G.L. c. 71, § 89;
(b) to conform with M.G.L. c. 71, § 89, and all other applicable laws and regulations, including any guidelines the Board may issue, and including those related to English language learners and students with disabilities;
(c) to meet its enrollment projections through demonstration of support for the proposed charter school in the communities from which students would be likely to enroll;
(d) to implement its recruitment and retention plan;
(e) to involve parents and guardians as partners in the education of their children;
(f) to develop a proposed program that enhances options for students in the district(s) served;
(g) to collaborate with and disseminate innovative practices to the school districts from which it draws students, if a Commonwealth charter, and with other schools in its district, if a Horace Mann charter;
(h) to develop a management structure and plan which enables the charter school to achieve the goals and mission set forth in its charter, including information about proposed board members and the selection, roles, and responsibilities of the board of trustees;
(i) to develop bylaws that govern the board of trustees consistent with M.G.L. c. 71, § 89; 603 CMR 1.00; and guidelines issued by the Department;
(j) to develop a management structure and plan that enables the board of trustees to oversee a network of charter schools, including the roles and responsibilities of school leaders and administrators, if applicable;
(k) to assure that students will meet the same performance standards and assessment requirements set by the Board for students in other public schools;
(l) to develop an accountability plan that meets criteria established by the Department, at the end of the first year of the school's charter, establishing five-year performance objectives to help measure the school's progress and success in fulfilling the terms of its charter;
(m) to administer its educational programs, school operations, and finances effectively;
(n) to establish a process to provide to students, parents/guardians, the Board, other interested parties, and the public all information required by law and regulation, as well as to provide other information the Board may request;
(o) to develop an enrollment policy consistent with M.G.L. c. 71, § 89, and 603 CMR 1.05;
(p) to develop a recruitment and retention plan consistent with M.G.L. c. 71, § 89, and 603 CMR 1.05;
(q) to ensure the thoroughness and accuracy of the charter school application;
(r) to provide school facilities that comply with municipal building codes and other applicable laws and that are adequate to meet the school's program requirements;
(s) to develop a board of trustees with the capacity to effectively govern the school and to effectively govern more than one school, if applicable; and
(t) to build a network of charter schools, if applicable.

If a charter is granted, the drafts of documents submitted during the application process are subject to Department review and approval during the opening procedures process, and the additional requirements in 603 CMR 1.04(7).

(4) Qualifications to Achieve Proven Provider Status: In school districts performing in the lowest 10% statewide and in which the 9% net school spending cap is or would be exceeded, applications will be considered only from Proven Providers. The Commissioner will determine and grant proven provider status.

Applicants for Proven Provider status must meet the requirements in 603 CMR 1.02. The applicant must submit evidence, satisfactory to the Commissioner, to demonstrate a significant management or leadership role at a school or similar program that is an academic success, a viable organization, and relevant to the proposed charter school.

(a) The applicant shall submit a detailed description of role(s) and responsibilities at the successful school(s) or program(s).
(b) The applicant shall submit data demonstrating success in student academic performance and evidence of academic program success, including but not limited to:
  1. Proficiency levels and growth measures on the Massachusetts comprehensive assessment system or equivalent assessments for all students and for one or more targeted subgroups as defined in M.G.L. c. 71, § 89(i)(3), which are similar to statewide averages in English Language Arts and mathematics for all students in Massachusetts in comparable grades, over no less than a three-year period for cohorts of students;
  2. Student performance on other standardized tests over no less than a three-year period for cohorts of students, if available, which demonstrates student achievement levels that are similar to statewide averages in English Language Arts and mathematics for all students in Massachusetts in comparable grades;
  3. attendance, retention, and attrition data;
  4. graduation and dropout data, if applicable; and
  5. in-school and out-of-school suspension rates.
(c) The applicant shall submit evidence of organizational viability, which shall include but not be limited to effective governance, effective financial management, effective implementation of recruitment and retention plans, if applicable, and compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
(d) The applicant shall provide evidence to demonstrate that the successful school serves student population(s) similar to the population(s) to be served by the proposed charter, and that the program to be offered at the proposed charter is similar to, or represents a reasonable modification of the successful school.
(e) Applicants shall provide any other information as required by the Department.

For applicants with a current or previous relationship to a Massachusetts charter school, the Commissioner may consider all information related to such school's performance, including his evaluation in connection with each renewal of its charter.

(5) Public Comment: The Board and the Department shall hold a public hearing for final applications in the school district in which a proposed charter school is to be located in order to solicit and review comments on the application from the school committees of the school district(s) from which the applicant is expected to enroll students and the public at large. At least one member of the Board shall attend each public hearing soliciting comments on the merits of pending charter school applications and shall report to the Board on the public hearing.

(6) Granting of Charters:

(a) The Board shall grant charters to charter boards of trustees under M.G.L. c. 71, § 89, and under such conditions and at such time as the Board specifies under 603 CMR 1.04.
(b) The Board shall grant new charters in the month of February, except that for Horace Mann II schools as described in 603 CMR 1.04(1)(a)2., the Board may grant such charters at such other times as designated, dependent upon the intended opening date.
(c) A charter granted by the Board shall be effective for five years, beginning July 1st of the first fiscal year in which the charter school enrolls students, unless revoked pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71, § 89, and 603 CMR 1.12. If no students are attending a charter school within 19 months from the date the charter was granted, the charter will be null and void, unless a waiver and extension is granted by the Board according to the process outlined in 603 CMR 1.03 (2).
(d) Should the Board elect to award fewer than the number of charters specified under M.G.L. c. 71, § 89 in any given cycle, the Board may grant those charters not awarded in subsequent application cycles in addition to the number of charters scheduled to be awarded and notwithstanding any limitations on the number of new charters authorized in such year.
(e) The Board may award any charter revoked or returned to the Board in subsequent application cycles in addition to the number of charters scheduled to be awarded and notwithstanding any limitations on the number of new charters authorized in such year.
(f) The Board will use the most recent United States Census estimate to determine the population of a city or town proposed as the location for a charter school.
(g) Private and parochial schools shall not be eligible for charter school status. If members of a charter applicant group are on the governing board or management of a private or parochial school that plans to close or closes around the time of seeking a charter, it creates a rebuttable presumption that the private or parochial school seeks charter status for the purpose of securing public funding. To rebut this presumption, the applicant group must establish facts sufficient for the Department to determine that funding is not the primary reason they are seeking a charter while the private or parochial school is closing. In making a determination, the Department will compare the governance, management, and other characteristics of the private or parochial school and the governance, management, and other characteristics of the charter school, including but not limited to curriculum, student body, staff, leadership, location, and the financial plan for the school.

(7) Conditions for Opening New Charter Schools: Charters shall be awarded subject to the conditions listed in 1.04 (3) and (7) and any additional conditions that the Board or Department may specify. The Board may temporarily waive such conditions and award a charter, provided that the applicant submits adequate written assurance that all such conditions will be met prior to the opening of the charter school. If a new charter school fails to comply with any such specified condition, the Commissioner may prohibit the school from opening.

Upon receiving a charter, the charter school must successfully complete the opening procedures process specified by the Department. This process begins with the awarding of a new charter by the Board and ends in the following June when the school submits a draft Accountability Plan to the Department. Opening procedures requirements include, but are not limited to, provision of the following:

(a) the terms of the proposed contract, for review and approval, in such cases where the board of trustees intends to procure substantially all educational services from another person or organization;
(b) policies and procedures including, but not be limited to, approved bylaws, an enrollment policy, and a recruitment and retention plan;
(c) criteria and procedures for suspension and expulsion of students;
(d) written documentation that criminal background checks have been performed as required by state law;
(e) written documentation that the facilities to be used by the charter school are approved for use as a school by the building inspector in the municipality in which the building is located;
(f) written documentation that the facilities occupied by the charter school have been inspected by the Fire Department of the municipality in which the facilities are located;
(g) written documentation that approval under M.G.L. c. 148 has been secured from the licensing authority of the municipality in which the building is located if explosives or flammable compounds or liquids are used in connection with courses taught at the school; and
(h) written documentation that the school is in compliance with all other applicable federal and state health and safety laws and regulations, including evidence of compliance with any required insurance coverage.

(8) Information for Distribution of Public Funds: Upon receiving a charter, all charter schools shall provide the Department with a federal tax identification number issued solely to the charter school, and banking information regarding a bank account solely in the name of the charter school, as required by the State Treasurer for the transfer of public funds.

(9) Lowest 10 %: The Commissioner shall annually publish a ranking of all districts that are subject to charter school tuition charges, for the purpose of determining the lowest 10% as specified in M.G.L. c. 71, § 89(i)(2), and (i)(3). Such ranking shall be calculated by determining the average ranks for each district's English language arts, mathematics, and science composite performance index; the percentage of students scoring warning or failing in English language arts, mathematics, and science; the percentage of students scoring advanced in English language arts, mathematics, and science; and student growth percentiles for English language arts and mathematics, using statewide student performance scores released in the two consecutive school years immediately preceding the school year in which applications are submitted. These calculations shall use weighting consistent with the Department's approved methodology for the state accountability system. Districts without data for each component of the calculation will not be included. Additional charter school seats resulting from a district's designation in the lowest 10% may be awarded by the Board to a new charter applicant, to existing charter schools, or to any combination thereof. The Board may provisionally award seats to new charter applicants and to existing charter schools that will become available in future years pursuant to the schedule set forth in St. 2010, c. 12, § 9, provided, that if a district is no longer in the lowest 10%, any remaining provisional seats may not be used.

(10) Seat Availability: In considering an application for the creation or expansion of a regional charter school, the board shall independently assess the availability of seats for each sending district within the proposed region, and may limit the number of students who may be enrolled from each such district.

Regulatory Authority:
M.G.L. c. 69, § 1B; c. 69, §§ 1J and 1K, as amended by St. 2010, c. 12, § 3; c. 71, § 38G.

Last Updated: September 24, 2015
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