Charter schools have exploded in the United States since the first charter school petition was approved in Minnesota in 1991. As of 2017, there are over 7,000 charter schools in the United States, and more are being approved each year. As charter schools attempt to keep up with the needs of their communities, the applications for new schools accelerate to help attempt to meet the growing need.
For groups that desire to start a charter school, the task can seem daunting. When you add to this the regulations and red tape of city, district, and state governments, it may like an impossible goal. Yet, there are dozens of charter schools being approved across the country each year; getting your state’s approval is absolutely possible!
When discussing the keys to writing a successful petition, one of the difficulties lies in that there are so many different laws governing how charter schools are established. Currently 44 different states allow for the establishment of charter schools, and each state has a different set of laws and regulations governing their creation. However, no matter what state you live in, there are some general keys that should guide you as you go through the petition process.
So, how does one go about writing a charter school petition? Consider the following tips:
1. Do your homework
When creating your charter school petition, time is of the essence. If you do not have the right information, you could waste precious months receiving your charter, which could be the difference between opening on your target date or not. Understanding the process before you begin assembling your packet is key.
Have you checked which government agency needs to receive your petition? Do they have a deadline for when it must be turned in? Is that deadline different for new charter schools and charter schools looking to renew their charter? These elementary questions should be dealt with before the petition writing process begins.
Further, what type of information will you need to assemble for the petition? If you are relying on other organizations to provide information for packet (i.e., banks, landlords, other government agencies), make sure that you contact them early in the process so you’re not scrambling for information the day before your deadline.
2. Be clear
When dealing with government agencies, instructions can often be unclear, redundant, or confusing. As you are preparing your charter school petition, don’t fall into this trap. Your petition must be clear.
You will likely be asked to state the goals of your charter school. Don’t be vague in your answers. Give clear answers with easily discernible benchmarks that can be quantified. If you are looking to open in a low-income or minority-majority area, don’t simply state that you’ll be serving these groups. Instead, give statistics of the possible composition of the student body and indicate measurable results that you’d like to achieve.
Have you considered the methods of instruction that your school will be implementing in the classroom? Have you given thought to the needs of gifted students or those with special needs? Again, avoid being vague in your answers to questions like these in your petition.
3. Prepare your financial plan
In the end, a charter school can only be successful if it is sustainable. Because the income stream of a charter school differs from traditional public schools, most governing bodies will want to see a clear path towards financial stability. Most likely, the per pupil funding from state government alone will be insufficient to keep the doors open to the school for any appreciable length of time.
As you prepare your petition, make sure to include a detailed financial plan. No doubt, you’ll have significant startup costs as you secure a location and make it ready to open for school. It’s likely that you’ll need to show where the income for this will come from. If you have secured grants for startup costs, this should be a part of your charter school petition.
If you are required to show a budget, make sure that your income is reasonable. If you indicate that you’ll need to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through private fundraising to stay in the black, your petition is likely to be denied. Make sure these issues are worked out before your petition and any additional paperwork are submitted.
4. Avail yourself to experts
Although the task seems daunting, there are many who have successfully submitted a charter school petition before you. You would do well to utilize their expertise. Do you know someone in your region who has successfully started a charter school who would be willing to assist you? Having someone scan your petition for red flags before you turn it in can be an invaluable tool that can save a great deal of headache.
Consider having a lawyer carefully study your petition before you submit it to the governing body. There may be an education attorney in the area who can assist you. The Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys can also be a resource in this area.
Charter Asset Management can also assist your charter school. We’ve helped many charter schools over the years open their doors. Whether it’s assistance with facility financing, growth financing, or operating cash flow, we have the financial backing and experience to help you with your unique situation. Contact us today to see how we can help your charter school petition. Over the years, we’ve disbursed over $500 million to more than 300 charter schools across the country, and we’d love to start a conversation to see how we can help you, too.