(a) Legal status of a public charter school.
(1) Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, to the extent that any provision of this chapter is inconsistent with any other state or local law, rule, or regulation, the provisions of this chapter shall govern and be controlling.
(2) A public charter school shall be subject to all federal laws and authorities enumerated herein or arranged by charter contract with the school’s authorizer, where such contracting is consistent with applicable laws, rules, and regulations.
(3) Except as provided in this chapter, a public charter school shall not be subject to the state’s education statutes or any state or local rule, regulation, policy, or procedure relating to non-charter public schools within an applicable local school system regardless of whether such rule, regulation, policy, or procedure is established by the local school board, the State Board of Education, or the State Department of Education.
(4) A single governing board may hold one or more charter contracts. Each public charter school that is part of a charter contract shall be separate and distinct from any others.
(5) A start-up public charter school shall function as a local educational agency (LEA). A public charter school shall be responsible for meeting the requirements of LEAs under applicable federal, state, and local laws, including those relating to special education. LEA status shall not preclude a public charter school from developing partnerships with school systems for services, resources, and programs by mutual agreement or formal contract.
(6) A conversion public charter school shall remain a part of the LEA in which the non-charter public school existed prior to its conversion to a public charter school.
(7) A public charter school shall have primary responsibility for special education at the school, including identification and service provision. It shall be responsible for meeting the needs of enrolled students with disabilities. This does not preclude the public charter school from collaborating with the local school system to meet the needs of any special education student.
(8) The governing board of a public charter school shall hold meetings in the local school system in which the public charter school is located and at times convenient for parents to attend.
(9) All members of a governing board shall be subject to the State Ethics Law.
(b) Powers of public charter schools. A public charter school shall have all the powers necessary for carrying out the terms of its charter contract including the following powers:
(1) To receive and disburse funds for school purposes.
(2) To secure appropriate insurance and to enter into contracts and leases.
(3) To contract with an education service provider for the management and operation of the public charter school so long as the school’s governing board retains oversight authority over the school.
(4) To incur debt in reasonable anticipation of the receipt of public or private funds.
(5) To pledge, assign, or encumber its assets to be used as collateral for loans or extensions of credit.
(6) To solicit and accept any gifts or grants for school purposes subject to applicable laws and the terms of its charter contract.
(7) To acquire real property for use as its facility or facilities, from public or private sources.
(8) To sue and be sued in its own name.
(c) General requirements.
(1) A public charter school shall not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, disability, or national origin or any other category that would be unlawful if done by a non-charter public school.
(2) No public charter school may engage in any sectarian practices in its educational program, admissions or employment policies, or operations.
(3) A public charter school shall not discriminate against any student on the basis of national origin minority status or limited proficiency in English. Consistent with federal civil rights laws, public charter schools shall provide limited English proficient students with appropriate services designed to teach them English and the general curriculum.
(4) A public charter school shall not charge tuition and may only charge such fees as may be imposed on other students attending public schools in the state.
(5) The powers, obligations, and responsibilities set forth in the charter contract cannot be delegated or assigned by either party.
(d) Applicability of other laws, rules, and regulations.
(1) Public charter schools shall be subject to the same civil rights, health, and safety requirements, including, but not limited to, state and local public health and building codes, employee fingerprinting and criminal background checks applicable to other public schools in the state, except as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter.
(2) Public charter schools shall be subject to the statewide end-of-year annual standardized assessment as applicable to other public schools in the state, but nothing herein shall preclude a public charter school from establishing additional student assessment measures that go beyond state requirements if the school’s authorizer approves such measures.
(3) Public charter school governing boards shall be subject to and comply with the Alabama Open Meetings Act and public records laws.
(4) Any provision of this chapter to the contrary notwithstanding, public charter schools shall be subject to competitive bid laws in the same fashion as local boards of education.
(e) Public charter school employees.
(1) Public charter schools shall comply with applicable federal laws, rules, and regulations regarding the qualification of teachers and other instructional staff. In accordance with subsection (a), teachers in public charter schools shall be exempt from state teacher certification requirements.
(2) Start-up public charter schools may elect to participate in the Teachers’ Retirement System and Public Education Employees’ Health Insurance Plan. Such election must take place prior to the execution of the charter contract and once made is irrevocable. Conversion charter schools shall participate in the Teachers’ Retirement System and Public Education Employees’ Health Insurance Plan and shall provide compensation for teachers and school nurses that complies with the pro rata daily rate of pay as provided in the state minimum salary schedules for teachers and school nurses. Employees of participating start-up public charter schools and employees of conversion public charter schools shall participate in the Teachers’ Retirement System of Alabama as teachers defined in subdivision (3) of Section 16-25-1 , and are eligible to participate in the Public Education Employees’ Health Insurance Plan as employees defined in subdivision (1) of Section 16-25A-1 .
(3) A public charter school may not interfere with laws and applicable rules protecting the rights of employees to organize and be free from discrimination.
(4) Public charter school employees, teachers, and other instructional staff shall be subject to the State Ethics Law, Chapter 25 of Title 36.
(f) Access to extracurricular and interscholastic activities. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent a public charter school from forming an athletic team and participating in interscholastic athletics in the State of Alabama. If a public charter school elects for its students to participate in athletic contests or competitions, then the school shall pursue membership in the Alabama High School Athletic Association and shall adhere to all guidelines, rules, regulations, and bylaws as other member schools.
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