Connecticut Seal

General Assembly

 

Raised Bill No. 1096

January Session, 2015

 

LCO No. 5164

 

*05164_______ED_*

Referred to Committee on EDUCATION

 

Introduced by:

 

(ED)

 

AN ACT CONCERNING CHARTER SCHOOLS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 10-66aa of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2015):

As used in [sections 10-66aa to 10-66ff] this section and sections 10-66bb to 10-66nn, inclusive, as amended by this act, and [sections 10-66hh to 10-66kk, inclusive] section 6 of this act:

(1) "Charter school" means a public, nonsectarian school which is (A) established under a charter granted pursuant to section 10-66bb, as amended by this act, (B) organized as a nonprofit entity under state law, (C) a public agency for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, as defined in section 1-200, and (D) operated independently of any local or regional board of education in accordance with the terms of its charter and the provisions of [sections 10-66aa to 10-66ff] this section and sections 10-66bb to 10-66nn, inclusive, as amended by this act, and sections 3, 4 and 6 of this act, provided no member or employee of a governing council of a charter school shall have a personal or financial interest in the assets, real or personal, of the school;

(2) "Local charter school" means a public school or part of a public school that is converted into a charter school and is approved by the local or regional board of education of the school district in which it is located and by the State Board of Education pursuant to subsection (e) of section 10-66bb, as amended by this act;

(3) "State charter school" means a new public school approved by the State Board of Education pursuant to subsection (f) of section 10-66bb, as amended by this act;

(4) "Charter management organization" means any [entity] not-for-profit organization that (A) is exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or any subsequent corresponding internal revenue code of the United States, as amended from time to time, (B) is a public agency for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, as defined in section 1-200, and (C) contracts with [that] a charter school [contracts with] for educational design, implementation or whole school management services; and

(5) "Whole school management services" means the financial, business, operational and administrative functions for a school.

Sec. 2. Section 10-66bb of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2015):

(a) (1) On and after July 1, 1997, and prior to July 1, 2015, the State Board of Education may grant charters for local and state charter schools in accordance with this section. On and after July 1, 2015, such state board may grant initial certificates of approval for charters for local and state charter schools in accordance with this section, except that such state board shall not grant such initial certificates of approval for charters until the Commission of Education develops a comprehensive state-wide charter school plan and conducts a review of charter schools in existence on July 1, 2015, and such plan and review are approved by the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to education. On or before February 1, 2017, the commissioner shall submit such plan and review to such joint standing committee. On or before April 1, 2017, such joint standing committee shall advise the commissioner of their approval, denial or modifications, if any, of such plan and review.

(2) The General Assembly shall review initial certificates of approval for charters and may appropriate funds for the expenses of the local and state charter schools. Upon such appropriation, the initial certificate of approval for charter for a local and state charter school shall be effective and such initial certificate of approval for a charter shall be deemed a charter.

(b) Any [person, association, corporation, organization or other entity] not-for-profit organization that is exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or any subsequent corresponding internal revenue code of the United States, as amended from time to time, public or independent institution of higher education, local or regional board of education or two or more boards of education cooperatively, or regional educational service center may apply to the Commissioner of Education, at such time and in such manner as the commissioner prescribes, to [establish] obtain an initial certificate of approval for a charter, [school,] provided no nonpublic elementary or secondary school may be established as a charter school and no parent or group of parents providing home instruction may establish a charter school for such instruction.

(c) On and after July 1, 2012, the State Board of Education shall review, annually, all applications and grant [charters] initial certificates of approval for a charter, in accordance with subsections (e) and (f) of this section, for a local or state charter school located in a town that has one or more schools that have been designated as a commissioner's network school, pursuant to section 10-223h, at the time of such application, or a town that has been designated as a low achieving school district, pursuant to section 10-223e, at the time of such application. (1) Except as provided for in subdivision (2) of this subsection, no state charter school shall enroll (A) (i) more than two hundred fifty students, or (ii) in the case of a kindergarten to grade eight, inclusive, school, more than three hundred students, or (B) twenty-five per cent of the enrollment of the school district in which the state charter school is to be located, whichever is less. (2) In the case of a state charter school found by the State Board of Education to have a demonstrated record of achievement, said board shall, upon application by such school to said board, waive the provisions of subdivision (1) of this subsection for such school. (3) The State Board of Education shall give preference to applicants for charter schools (A) whose primary purpose is the establishment of education programs designed to serve one or more of the following student populations: (i) Students with a history of low academic performance, (ii) students who receive free or reduced priced lunches pursuant to federal law and regulations, (iii) students with a history of behavioral and social difficulties, (iv) students identified as requiring special education, (v) students who are English language learners, or (vi) students of a single gender; (B) whose primary purpose is to improve the academic performance of an existing school that has consistently demonstrated substandard academic performance, as determined by the Commissioner of Education; (C) that will serve students who reside in a priority school district pursuant to section 10-266p; (D) that will serve students who reside in a district in which seventy-five per cent or more of the enrolled students are members of racial or ethnic minorities; (E) that demonstrate highly credible and specific strategies to attract, enroll and retain students from among the populations described in subparagraph (A)(i) to (A)(vi), inclusive, of this subdivision; or (F) that, in the case of an applicant for a state charter school, such state charter school will be located at a work-site or such applicant is an institution of higher education. In determining whether to grant [a] an initial certificate of approval for a charter, the State Board of Education shall consider (i) the effect of the proposed charter school on the reduction of racial, ethnic and economic isolation in the region in which it is to be located, (ii) the regional distribution of charter schools in the state, [and] (iii) the potential of over-concentration of charter schools within a school district or in contiguous school districts, and (iv) the comments made at a public hearing conducted pursuant to subdivision (2) of subsection (e) of this section or subparagraph (B) of subdivision (2) of subsection (f) of this section.

(d) Applications pursuant to this section shall include a description of: (1) The mission, purpose and any specialized focus of the proposed charter school; (2) the interest in the community for the establishment of the charter school; (3) the school governance and procedures for the establishment of a governing council that (A) includes (i) teachers and parents and guardians of students enrolled in the school, and (ii) the chairperson of the local or regional board of education of the town in which the charter school is located and which has jurisdiction over a school that resembles the approximate grade configuration of the charter school, or the designee of such chairperson, provided such designee is a member of the board of education or the superintendent of schools for the school district, and (B) is responsible for the oversight of charter school operations, provided no member or employee of the governing council may have a personal or financial interest in the assets, real or personal, of the school; (4) the financial plan for operation of the school, provided no application fees or other fees for attendance, except as provided in this section, may be charged; (5) the educational program, instructional methodology and services to be offered to students; (6) the number and qualifications of teachers and administrators to be employed in the school; (7) the organization of the school in terms of the ages or grades to be taught and the total estimated enrollment of the school; (8) the student admission criteria and procedures to (A) ensure effective public information, (B) ensure open access on a space available basis, including the enrollment of students during the school year if spaces become available in the charter school, (C) promote a diverse student body, and (D) ensure that the school complies with the provisions of section 10-15c and that it does not discriminate on the basis of disability, athletic performance or proficiency in the English language, provided the school may limit enrollment to a particular grade level or specialized educational focus and, if there is not space available for all students seeking enrollment, the school may give preference to siblings but shall otherwise determine enrollment by a lottery, except the State Board of Education may waive the requirements for such enrollment lottery pursuant to subsection (j) of this section; (9) a means to assess student performance that includes participation in mastery examinations, pursuant to section 10-14n; (10) procedures for teacher evaluation and professional development for teachers and administrators; (11) the provision of school facilities, pupil transportation and student health and welfare services; (12) procedures to encourage involvement by parents and guardians of enrolled students in student learning, school activities and school decision-making; (13) procedures to document efforts to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of staff; (14) a five-year plan to sustain the maintenance and operation of the school; and (15) a student recruitment and retention plan that shall include, but not be limited to, a clear description of a plan and the capacity of the school to attract, enroll and retain students from among the populations described in subparagraph (A)(i) to (A)(v), inclusive, of subdivision (3) of subsection (c) of this section. Subject to the provisions of subsection (b) of section 10-66dd, an application may include, or a charter school may file, requests to waive provisions of the general statutes and regulations not required by sections 10-66aa to 10-66ff, inclusive, as amended by this act, and which are within the jurisdiction of the State Board of Education.

(e) An application for the establishment of a local charter school shall be submitted to the local or regional board of education of the school district in which the local charter school is to be located for approval pursuant to this subsection. The local or regional board of education shall: (1) Review the application; (2) hold a public hearing in the school district on such application; (3) survey teachers and parents in the school district to determine if there is sufficient interest in the establishment and operation of the local charter school; and (4) vote on a complete application not later than sixty days after the date of receipt of such application. Such board of education may approve the application by a majority vote of the members of the board present and voting at a regular or special meeting of the board called for such purpose. If the application is approved, the board shall forward the application to the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education shall vote on the application not later than seventy-five days after the date of receipt of such application. Subject to the provisions of subsection (c) of this section, the State Board of Education may approve the application and grant the initial certificate of approval for a charter for the local charter school or reject such application by a majority vote of the members of the state board present and voting at a regular or special meeting of the state board called for such purpose. The State Board of Education may condition the opening of such school on the school's meeting certain conditions determined by the Commissioner of Education to be necessary and may authorize the commissioner to release the initial certificate of approval for the charter when the commissioner determines such conditions are met. [The state board may grant the charter for the local charter school for a period of time of up to five years and may allow the applicant to delay its opening for a period of up to one school year in order for the applicant to fully prepare to provide appropriate instructional services.]

(f) (1) Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (2) of this subsection, an application for the establishment of a state charter school shall be (A) submitted to the State Board of Education for approval in accordance with the provisions of this subsection, and (B) filed with the local or regional board of education in the school district in which the charter school is to be located. The state board shall: (i) Review such application; (ii) hold a public hearing on such application in the school district in which such state charter school is to be located; (iii) solicit and review comments on the application from the local or regional board of education for the school district in which such charter school is to be located and from the local or regional boards of education for school districts that are contiguous to the district in which such school is to be located; and (iv) vote on a complete application not later than ninety days after the date of receipt of such application. The State Board of Education may approve an application and grant the initial certificate of approval for a charter for the state charter school by a majority vote of the members of the state board present and voting at a regular or special meeting of the state board called for such purpose. The State Board of Education may condition the opening of such school on the school's meeting certain conditions determined by the Commissioner of Education to be necessary and may authorize the commissioner to release the initial certificate of approval for the charter when the commissioner determines such conditions are met. [Charters shall be granted for a period of time of up to five years and may allow the applicant to delay its opening for a period of up to one school year in order for the applicant to fully prepare to provide appropriate instructional services.]

(2) [On] Subject to the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, on and after July 1, 2012, and before July 1, 2017, the State Board of Education shall not approve more than four applications for the establishment of new state charter schools unless two of the four such applications are for the establishment of two new state charter schools whose mission, purpose and specialized focus is to provide dual language programs or other models focusing on language acquisition for English language learners. Approval of applications under this subdivision shall be in accordance with the provisions of this section.

(g) Charters may be renewed, upon application, in accordance with the provisions of this section for the granting of such charters. Upon application for such renewal, the State Board of Education may commission an independent appraisal of the performance of the charter school that includes, but is not limited to, an evaluation of the school's compliance with the provisions of this section. The State Board of Education shall consider the results of any such appraisal in determining whether to renew such charter. The State Board of Education may deny an application for the renewal of a charter if (1) student progress has not been sufficiently demonstrated, as determined by the commissioner, (2) the governing council has not been sufficiently responsible for the operation of the school or has misused or spent public funds in a manner that is detrimental to the educational interests of the students attending the charter school, (3) the school has not been in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, or (4) the efforts of the school have been insufficient to effectively attract, enroll and retain students from among the following populations: (A) Students with a history of low academic performance, (B) students who receive free or reduced priced lunches pursuant to federal law and regulations, (C) students with a history of behavioral and social difficulties, (D) students identified as requiring special education, or (E) students who are English language learners. If the State Board of Education does not renew a charter, it shall notify the governing council of the charter school of the reasons for such nonrenewal.

(h) The Commissioner of Education may at any time place a charter school on probation if (1) the school has failed to (A) adequately demonstrate student progress, as determined by the commissioner, (B) comply with the terms of its charter or with applicable laws and regulations, (C) achieve measurable progress in reducing racial, ethnic and economic isolation, or (D) maintain its nonsectarian status, or (2) the governing council has demonstrated an inability to provide effective leadership to oversee the operation of the charter school or has not ensured that public funds are expended prudently or in a manner required by law. If a charter school is placed on probation, the commissioner shall provide written notice to the charter school of the reasons for such placement, not later than five days after the placement, and shall require the charter school to file with the Department of Education a corrective action plan acceptable to the commissioner not later than thirty-five days from the date of such placement. The charter school shall implement a corrective action plan accepted by the commissioner not later than thirty days after the date of such acceptance. The commissioner may impose any additional terms of probation on the school that the commissioner deems necessary to protect the educational or financial interests of the state. The charter school shall comply with any such additional terms not later than thirty days after the date of their imposition. The commissioner shall determine the length of time of the probationary period, which may be up to one year, provided the commissioner may extend such period, for up to one additional year, if the commissioner deems it necessary. In the event that the charter school does not file or implement the corrective action plan within the required time period or does not comply with any additional terms within the required time period, the Commissioner of Education may withhold grant funds from the school until the plan is fully implemented or the school complies with the terms of probation, provided the commissioner may extend the time period for such implementation and compliance for good cause shown. Whenever a charter school is placed on probation, the commissioner shall notify the parents or guardians of students attending the school of the probationary status of the school and the reasons for such status. During the term of probation, the commissioner may require the school to file interim reports concerning any matter the commissioner deems relevant to the probationary status of the school, including financial reports or statements. No charter school on probation may increase its student enrollment or engage in the recruitment of new students without the consent of the commissioner.

(i) The State Board of Education may revoke a charter if a charter school has failed to: (1) Comply with the terms of probation, including the failure to file or implement a corrective action plan; (2) demonstrate satisfactory student progress, as determined by the commissioner; (3) comply with the terms of its charter or applicable laws and regulations; or (4) manage its public funds in a prudent or legal manner. Unless an emergency exists, prior to revoking a charter, the State Board of Education shall provide the governing council of the charter school with a written notice of the reasons for the revocation, including the identification of specific incidents of noncompliance with the law, regulation or charter or other matters warranting revocation of the charter. It shall also provide the governing council with the opportunity to demonstrate compliance with all requirements for the retention of its charter by providing the State Board of Education or a subcommittee of the board, as determined by the State Board of Education, with a written or oral presentation. Such presentation shall include an opportunity for the governing council to present documentary and testimonial evidence to refute the facts cited by the State Board of Education for the proposed revocation or in justification of its activities. Such opportunity shall not constitute a contested case within the meaning of chapter 54. The State Board of Education shall determine, not later than thirty days after the date of an oral presentation or receipt of a written presentation, whether and when the charter shall be revoked and notify the governing council of the decision and the reasons therefor. A decision to revoke a charter shall not constitute a final decision for purposes of chapter 54. In the event an emergency exists in which the commissioner finds that there is imminent harm to the students attending a charter school, the State Board of Education may immediately revoke the charter of the school, provided the notice concerning the reasons for the revocation is sent to the governing council not later than ten days after the date of revocation and the governing council is provided an opportunity to make a presentation to the board not later than twenty days from the date of such notice.

(j) (1) The governing council of a state or local charter school may apply to the State Board of Education for a waiver of the requirements of the enrollment lottery described in subdivision (8) of subsection (d) of this section, provided such state or local charter school has as its primary purpose the establishment of education programs designed to serve one or more of the following populations: (A) Students with a history of behavioral and social difficulties, (B) students identified as requiring special education, (C) students who are English language learners, or (D) students of a single gender.

(2) An enrollment lottery described in subdivision (8) of subsection (d) of this section shall not be held for a local charter school that is established at a school that is among the schools with a percentage equal to or less than five per cent when all schools are ranked highest to lowest in school performance index scores, as defined in section 10-223e.

Sec. 3. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2015) Each charter management organization of a state or local charter school or, if there is no charter management organization associated with a state or local charter school, the governing council of such charter school, shall submit annually, to the Commissioner of Education, (1) a certified audit statement of all revenues from public and private sources and expenditures, and (2) a complete copy of such organization's or council's most recently completed Internal Revenue Service form 990, including all parts and schedules.

Sec. 4. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2015) The Commissioner of Education shall post any reports, certified audit statements and forms submitted to the Department of Education pursuant to section 10-66cc of the general statutes and section 3 of this act on the department's Internet web site not later than thirty days after receiving such reports, statements or forms. The commissioner shall identify any charter management organization or governing council of a charter school that did not submit a report, certified audit statement or form for the current reporting period and post such information on the department's Internet web site, not later than thirty days after failing to receive such reports, statements or forms.

Sec. 5. Section 10-66ll of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2015):

Annually, the [commissioner] Commissioner of Education shall randomly select one state charter school, as defined in subdivision (3) of section 10-66aa, as amended by this act, to be subject to a comprehensive financial audit conducted by an independent auditor selected and monitored by the [Commissioner of Education] commissioner. Except as provided [for] in subsection (d) of section 10-66ee, the charter school shall be responsible for all costs associated with the audit conducted pursuant to the provisions of this section.

Sec. 6. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2015) (a) On and after July 1, 2015, the State Board of Education shall require members of the governing council of a state or local charter school and members of a charter management organization to submit to a records check of the Department of Children and Families child abuse and neglect registry, established pursuant to section 17a-101k of the general statutes, and to state and national criminal history records checks before the state board grants initial certificates of approval for charters pursuant to section 10-66bb of the general statutes, as amended by this act. The criminal history records checks required under this subsection shall be conducted in accordance with section 29-17a of the general statutes.

(b) On and after July 1, 2015, the governing council of a state or local charter school shall require each applicant for a position in a state or local charter school and each contractor doing business with a state or local charter school, who performs a service involving direct student contact, to submit to a records check of the Department of Children and Families child abuse and neglect registry, established pursuant to section 17a-101k of the general statutes, and to state and national criminal history records checks before such applicant may be hired or such contractor begins to perform such service. The criminal history records checks required under this subsection shall be conducted in accordance with section 29-17a of the general statutes.

This act shall take effect as follows and shall amend the following sections:

Section 1

July 1, 2015

10-66aa

Sec. 2

July 1, 2015

10-66bb

Sec. 3

July 1, 2015

New section

Sec. 4

July 1, 2015

New section

Sec. 5

July 1, 2015

10-66ll

Sec. 6

July 1, 2015

New section

Statement of Purpose:

To place a moratorium on the approval of new charter schools by the Commissioner of Education and amend the requirements concerning the applications, reports and background checks to be completed by charter schools.

[Proposed deletions are enclosed in brackets. Proposed additions are indicated by underline, except that when the entire text of a bill or resolution or a section of a bill or resolution is new, it is not underlined.]