Charter schools are public schools established by contract with sponsors. They are allowed in many states and the District of Columbia, and charter schools are exempt from many laws and regulations. They often promote a specific curriculum and learning style and are operated by parents, teachers and other interested community members.
State law authorizes charter schools in 12 school districts: Broken Arrow, Edmond, Jenks, Midwest City/Del City, Moore, Mustang, Oklahoma City, Owasso, Putnam City, Sand Springs, Tulsa and Union Public Schools. These districts' boards of education or the area CareerTech school boards serving them may sponsor a charter school.
Additionally, a comprehensive or regional institution that is a member of The Oklahoma State System of Higher Education may sponsor a charter school only when the charter school is located in a school district that has an average daily membership of five thousand (5,000) or more and which all or part of the school district is located in a county having more than five hundred thousand (500,000) population according to the latest Federal Decennial Census. In addition, the institution shall have a teacher education program accredited by the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation and have a branch campus or constituent agency physically located within the school district in which the charter school is located.
The law allows "a board of education of a public school district, public body, public or private college or university, private person, or private organization—to establish a charter school." Annually, no more than three (3) new charter schools may be established in each county.
Those interested in establishing a charter school first should obtain a copy of the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act (pdf). The next step is to attend the training provided by the State Department of Education. For training information, please contact (405) 521-3333. the final step is to contact the sponsor with whom you are interested in applying. At a minimum, applications must include the proposed charter school's:
Eligible sponsors have 90 days to respond to each application. If an application is rejected, applicants may within 30 days submit a revised application, which must be answered within 30 days. If it is rejected a second time, applicants may seek mediation or binding arbitration.
Charter schools cannot "limit admission based on ethnicity, national origin, gender, income level, disabling condition, English proficiency, measures of achievement, aptitude, or athletic ability." They may enroll students whose legal residence is within the boundaries of the school district in which the school is located or who have transferred into the school district. Preference shall be given to resident students. If capacity is insufficient to enroll all interested, eligible students, charter schools must select students through a lottery. Students not present at the school site cannot be included in attendance counts.
Like any public school, charter schools receive state funding through the State Aid funding formula, set by law. Up to 5 percent of a school's allocation may be retained by its sponsor for administrative costs. Charter schools may receive additional funding through public aid, grants and other revenue as well as private sources, but the schools must be nonprofit. The Charter Schools Incentive Fund assists those interested in establishing charter schools. Applicants are eligible for up to $50,000 for start-up costs. Only charter schools with sponsor approval are eligible to apply.
Charter school contracts can be approved for no longer than five years at a time, and must include criteria by which effectiveness of the school will be measured. Sponsors must give written notice and explanation of their intent to deny requests for renewal at least 8 months prior to expiration of contracts. However, if a charter school fails to meet the standards outlined in its contract, its sponsor may give only 90 days written notice of intent to terminate.