(a) Request for proposals.
(1) To solicit, encourage, and guide the development of quality public charter school applications, every local school board, in its role as public charter school authorizer, shall issue and broadly publicize a request for proposals for public charter school applications by July 17, 2015, and by November 1 in each subsequent year. The content and dissemination of the request for proposals shall be consistent with the purposes and requirements of this act.
(2) Public charter school applicants may submit a proposal for a particular public charter school to no more than one local school board at a time.
(3) The department shall annually establish and disseminate a statewide timeline for charter approval or denial decisions, which shall apply to all authorizers in the state.
(4) Each local school board’s request for proposals shall present the board’s strategic vision for chartering, including a clear statement of any preferences the board wishes to grant to applications that help at-risk students.
(5) The request for proposals shall include or otherwise direct applicants to the performance framework that the authorizer has developed for public charter school oversight and evaluation in accordance with this chapter.
(6) The request for proposals shall include the criteria that will guide the authorizer’s decision to approve or deny a charter application.
(7) The request for proposals shall state clear, appropriately detailed questions as well as guidelines concerning the format and content essential for applicants to demonstrate the capacities necessary to establish and operate a successful public charter school.
(8) The request for proposals shall require charter applications to provide or describe thoroughly all of the following essential elements of the proposed school plan:
a. An executive summary.
b. The mission and vision of the proposed public charter school, including identification of the targeted student population and the community the school hopes to serve.
c. The location or geographic area proposed for the school.
d. The grades to be served each year for the full term of the charter contract.
e. Minimum, planned, and maximum enrollment per grade per year for the term of the charter contract.
f. Evidence of need and community support for the proposed public charter school.
g. A brief biography regarding the expertise and background on the proposed founding governing members and the proposed school leadership and management team.
h. The school’s proposed calendar and sample daily schedule.
i. A description of the academic program.
j. A description of the school’s instructional design, including the type of learning environment, such as classroom-based or independent study, class size and structure, curriculum overview, and teaching methods.
k. The school’s plan for using internal and external assessments to measure and report student progress.
l. The school’s plan for identifying and successfully serving students with disabilities, students who are English language learners, students who are academically behind, and gifted students, including, but not limited to, compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
m. A description of cocurricular or extracurricular programs and how they will be funded and delivered.
n. Plans and timelines for student recruitment and enrollment, including random selection procedures in the event that interest exceeds capacity.
o. The school’s student discipline policies, including those for special education students.
p. An organization chart that clearly presents the school’s organizational structure, including lines of authority and reporting between the governing board, staff, any related bodies, such as advisory bodies or parent and teacher councils, and any external organizations that will play a role in managing the school.
q. A clear description of the roles and responsibilities for the governing board, the school’s leadership and management team, and any other entities shown in the organization chart.
r. A staffing chart for the school’s first year, and a staffing plan for the term of the charter.
s. Plans for recruiting and developing school leadership and staff.
t. The school’s leadership and teacher employment policies, including performance evaluation plans.
u. Proposed governing bylaws.
v. Explanations of any partnerships or contractual relationships central to the school’s operations or mission.
w. The school’s plans for providing transportation, food service, and all other significant operational or ancillary services.
x. Opportunities and expectations for parental involvement.
y. A detailed school start-up plan, identifying tasks, timelines, and responsible individuals.
z. Description of the school’s financial plan and policies, including financial controls and audit requirements. This plan shall include a disclosure of all donations of private funding, if any, including, but not limited to, gifts received from foreign governments, foreign legal entities, and, when reasonably known, domestic entities affiliated with either foreign governments or foreign legal entities.
aa. A description of the insurance coverage the school will obtain.
bb. Start-up and five-year budgets with clearly stated assumptions.
cc. Evidence of anticipated fundraising contributions, if claimed in the application.
dd. A sound facilities plan, including backup or contingency plans, if appropriate.
ee. In the case of an applicant who has submitted an application for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, but has not yet been approved for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, the applicant shall submit a copy of the application for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
ff. Any other item that the authorizer deems appropriate to assess the applicant’s ability to successfully open and operate a public charter school.
(9) CONVERSION PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS. A local school board may convert a non-charter public school to a public charter school.
a. Any local school board’s decision to convert a school is not appealable to the commission.
1. After identifying the non-charter public school it has decided to convert to a public charter school, a local school board shall release a request for proposals, allowing education service providers the opportunity to submit applications to manage the specific school as a public charter school under the terms of this chapter.
2. The conversion must occur at the beginning of an academic school year and shall be subject to compliance with this chapter.
3. At the time of conversion to a public charter school, any teacher or administrator in the newly converted public charter school shall have the opportunity to interview for a position in the public charter school. The public charter school is under no obligation to hire any teacher or administrator.
4. At the time of conversion to a public charter school, any teacher or administrator in the public charter school may be allowed to transfer into vacant positions for which they are both certified and qualified in other schools in the school system prior to the hiring of new personnel for those vacant positions.
5. If personnel reductions are contemplated as the result of a conversion to a charter model, that shall be clearly stated in the application. An approved conversion shall constitute decreased student enrollment or a shortage of revenues, or both, for the purposes of the local school board implementing a reduction in force pursuant to Section 16-1-33 .
b. After an education service provider has been identified to manage the non-charter public school, the local school board shall negotiate a performance contract with the selected education service provider as set forth in subdivision (1) of subsection (e).
(10) In the case of a proposed public charter school that intends to contract with an education service provider for substantial education services, management services, or both types of services, the request for proposals shall additionally require the applicants to do all of the following:
a. Provide evidence of the education service provider’s success in serving student populations similar to the targeted population, including demonstrated academic achievement as well as successful management of nonacademic school functions, if applicable.
b. Provide a term sheet setting forth the proposed duration of the service contract; roles and responsibilities of the governing board; the school staff; and the education service provider; scope of services and resources to be provided by the education service provider; performance evaluation measures and timelines; compensation structure, including clear identification of all fees to be paid to the education service provider; methods of contract oversight and enforcement; investment disclosure; and conditions for renewal and termination of the contract.
c. Disclose and explain any existing or potential conflicts of interest between the school governing board and proposed education service provider or any affiliated business entities.
(11) In the case of a public charter school proposal from an applicant that currently operates one or more schools inside or outside of Alabama, the request for proposals shall additionally require the applicant to provide evidence of past performance and current ability to manage for growth.
(b) Application decision-making process.
(1) In evaluating and reviewing charter applications, authorizers shall employ procedures, practices, and criteria consistent with nationally recognized principles and standards for quality charter authorizing. The application review process shall include thorough evaluation of each written charter application, an in-person interview with the applicant group, and an opportunity in a public forum for local residents to learn about and provide input on each application.
(2) In deciding whether to approve charter applications, authorizers shall do all of the following:
a. Grant charters only to applicants that have demonstrated competence in each element of the authorizer’s published approval criteria and are likely to open and operate a successful public charter school.
b. Base decisions on documented evidence collected through the application review process.
c. Follow charter-granting policies and practices that are transparent, based on merit, and avoid conflicts of interest or any appearance thereof.
d. In the case of the commission, require significant and objective evidence of interest for the public charter school from the community the public charter school wishes to serve.
(3) An authorizer shall not approve a public charter school application that includes any of the following:
a. Admissions requirements for entry, including, but not limited to academic proficiency, particular skills or competencies, or financial means.
b. Any parochial or religious theme.
(4) No later than 60 days after the filing of the charter application, the authorizer shall decide to approve or deny the charter application; however, an application submitted by a public historically black college or university (HBCU), in partnership with a national nonprofit public HBCU support organization, for a charter school to be operated on or near the campus of the HBCU may be considered for expedited approval by the authorizer. The authorizer shall adopt by resolution all charter approval or denial decisions in an open meeting. If no action is taken on the application within 60 days, the application shall be considered denied and the applicant may appeal the decision to the commission.
(5) An approval decision may include, if appropriate, reasonable conditions that the charter applicant must meet before a charter contract may be executed pursuant to this section.
(6) For any charter denial, the authorizer shall clearly state, for public record, its reasons for denial. A denied applicant may subsequently reapply to that board the following year or appeal the denial to the commission.
(7) Within 30 days of taking action to approve or deny a charter application, the authorizer shall report to the department the action it has taken. The authorizer shall provide a copy of the report to the charter applicant at the same time that the report is submitted to the department. The report shall include a copy of the authorizer’s resolution setting forth the action taken and reasons for the decision and assurances as to compliance with all of the procedural requirements and application elements set forth in this section.
(c)(1) The applicant for a public charter school, the local school board for the district in which a public charter school is proposed to be located, and the authorizer shall carefully review the potential impact of an application for a public charter school on the efforts of the local school system to comply with court orders and statutory obligations for creating and maintaining a unitary system of desegregated public schools.
(2) The authorizer shall attempt to measure the likely impact of a proposed public charter school on the efforts of local school systems to achieve and maintain a unitary system.
(3) The authorizer shall not approve any public charter school under this chapter that hampers, delays, or in any manner negatively affects the desegregation efforts of a local school system.
(d) Initial charter term. An initial charter shall be granted for a term of five operating years. The charter term shall commence on the public charter school’s first day of operation. An approved public charter school may delay its opening for one school year in order to plan and prepare for the school’s opening. If the school requires an opening delay of more than one year, the school shall request an extension from its authorizer. The authorizer may grant or deny the extension depending on the particular school’s circumstances.
(e) Charter contracts.
(1) Within 60 days of approval of a charter application, the authorizer and the governing board of the approved public charter school shall execute a charter contract that clearly sets forth the academic and operational performance expectations and measures by which the public charter school will be judged and the administrative relationship between the authorizer and the public charter school, including each party’s rights and duties. The performance expectations and measures set forth in the charter contract shall include, but need not be limited to, applicable federal and state accountability requirements. The performance provisions may be refined or amended by mutual agreement after the public charter school is operating and has collected baseline achievement data for its enrolled students. A governing board shall have received 501(c)(3) tax exempt status before beginning charter contract negotiations.
(2) The charter contract shall be signed by the president of the authorizer’s board and the president of the public charter school’s governing body. Within 10 days of executing a charter contract, the authorizer shall submit to the department written notification of the executed charter contract and any attachments.
(3) No public charter school may commence operations without a charter contract executed in accordance with this chapter and approved in an open meeting of the authorizer’s governing board.
(f) Preopening requirements or conditions. Authorizers may establish reasonable preopening requirements or conditions to monitor the start-up progress of newly approved public charter schools and ensure that they are prepared to open smoothly on the date agreed, and to ensure that each school meets all building, health, safety, insurance, and other legal requirements for school opening.
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