for Opening a Charter School
Who can start a
charter school in Georgia?
Existing local schools, local board(s) of education, private
individuals, private organizations, and state and local public entities may
organize a charter public school, except that a charter petitioner for a local
charter school shall be a party other than the local board of education. A
charter school is subject to a performance-based contract approved by both the
state and local board(s) of education, by the State Board of Education alone,
or by the State Charter Schools Commission.
Who cannot start a
charter school in Georgia?
The term "charter petitioner" does not include home
study programs or schools, sectarian schools, religious schools, private
for-profit schools, private educational institutions not established, operated,
or governed by the State of Georgia, or existing private schools. A charter
petitioner cannot become a party to the charter contract unless the petitioner
is a Georgia nonprofit corporation.
How do I start a
An application, commonly referred to as a petition, must be
submitted to and approved by a local authorizer. After approval by a local
authorizer, the petition must be submitted to the District Flexibility and Charter
Schools Division (“Charter Schools Division”) at the Georgia Department of
Education. Petitions will then be subject to an evaluation process and will
ultimately be approved or denied by the State Board of Education.
What happens if my
local authorizer does not approve my petition?
Upon denial by a local authorizer, applicants may submit their
petitions to the State Board of Education or to the State Charter Schools
Commission (SCSC). Petitions approved by the State Board of Education alone,
known as state-chartered special schools, receive only state funding. Petitions
approved by the State Charter Schools Commission alone, known as state charter
schools, receive only state funding and operate as their own Local Education
Applicants that have submitted a petition to their local
authorizer and have not received an approval or denial, but still wish to be
considered by the State Charter Schools Commission, must submit an identical
copy of the petition to the SCSC by the SCSC deadline. Please consult the State
Charter Schools Commission website at http://scsc.georgia.gov/
for more details regarding the Commission and its petition process.
What does the
evaluation process by the State Board of Education entail?
When a petition has been received by the Georgia Department of
Education, it is first read and evaluated by qualified reviewers at the
Department. These reviewers evaluate the petition for legal compliance and the
overall capacity of the petitioner to develop, launch, and sustain operation of
a high-quality charter school. Second, petitioners are invited to participate
in a formal interview. Third, based on the initial petition review and the
formal interview, the Charter Schools Division issues a letter that assigns the
petitioner to one of four groups:
Rejection Group: The petition is flawed in some
way that is irreparable and will be rejected for the current petition review
cycle. Petitioners in this category are free to submit a new petition during
the following school year’s petition review cycle.
Revision Group: The petition demonstrates
minimum quality and compliance or less, and would require substantial and
material revisions before a charter can be approved by the State Board of
Education. Petitioners in this category must first be newly approved by the
local board of education before re-submission. Petitioners will have only one
opportunity to revise their petition; those that fail to make the required
revisions will have to wait to submit a new petition during the following
school year’s petition review cycle.
Clarification Group: The petition demonstrates
moderate quality and compliance or better, but require clarification and
supplemental information to be submitted before we can determine whether a
charter contract approval recommendation can be made to the State Board of
Education. Petitioners will have only one opportunity to provide the required
clarification(s) and/or supplemental information; those that fail to provide
this information will have to wait to submit a new petition during the following
school year’s petition review cycle
Approval Group: The petition demonstrates
near-perfect quality and compliance. The Department will issue a charter
contract approval recommendation to the State Board of Education without any
further action on the part of the petitioner.
Finally, the revised petition is reviewed and the Charter
Schools Division makes a recommendation of either approval or denial to the
State Board of Education. The State Board of Education receives the petition as
an Item for Information at its monthly meeting, then as an Action Item the
What happens if I
decide to revise my petition?
Petitioners who chose to revise their petition must have their
local authorizer reapprove the revised petition. Revised petitions must undergo
another review by the Charter Schools Division.
What happens if my
petition is approved?
The State Board of Education does not approve petitions. The
State Board of Education approves a contract that the Charter Schools Division
drafts that encompasses elements of the petition. The charter contract is a
legally binding document between the following parties: the petitioner, the
local authorizer, and the State Board of Education. Until the Charter Schools
Division receives an executed contract with all appropriate signatures, the petitioner
may not legally open their charter school.
What happens if my
petition is denied?
If the State Board of Education denies a petition, they have 60
days to provide the petitioner with the reasons for their denial. Denied
petitioners are encouraged to think critically about the reasons for denial,
revise their petition accordingly, and resubmit the following year.
Must I apply to
the local board first, or may I apply directly to the State Board of Education
Petitioners are required to first submit a petition to the local
board(s) of education and provide a copy of the petition to the Georgia
Department of Education within 30 days of submission to the local board(s). The
Department may not act on the petition until a decision has been rendered by the
What if my school
proposes to serve multiple counties/districts?
Petitioners who desire to serve students living in an area that
includes more than one county or city school system must submit either a
jointly-approved petition -- which is approved by the local board of education
in each county and/or district your school wants to serve -- or submit a petition
approved by the county or city school system in which the charter school will
be physically located (the school's home district) and include a Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) between the home school district and each county and/or
district your school wants to serve regarding how they will share money and resources
for students that live outside the school's home district.
Where can I get an
application to start a charter school?
What are the
additional requirements for conversion charter school petitions?
A conversion charter school petition must be agreed to by a
majority of the faculty and instructional staff members and a majority of
parent or guardians of students enrolled in the petitioning local school before
the petition is presented to the local board for approval.
What must be
included when I submit my completed petition?
Three hard copies and one electronic copy of the petition must
be submitted to the Georgia Department of Education. The petition must include
properly completed cover sheets and checklists, and the petition and appendices
must be clearly marked by alphabetical or numerical tabbed dividers. The
Georgia Department of Education reserves the right to not accept incomplete
When is the Letter
of Intent due?
All petitioners – including start-ups, conversions, renewals, and
state-chartered special schools – who intend to submit a charter petition for
local board of education consideration must submit a Letter of Intent to both
the Georgia Department of Education and to the appropriate local board(s) at
least 6 months prior to the date the petition will be submitted to the Georgia Department
When are petitions
due to the State Department of Education office?
The Georgia Department of Education does not have a deadline to
submit charter petitions. All petitions are processed on a first-come,
available for planning and implementing a charter school?
Planning and Implementation Grants are available through the
State Department of Education via the Federal Public Charter Schools Program.
The grants are competitive and limited to the availability of funds. Charter
petitioners are eligible to apply for these grants once a charter has been
approved by the State Board of Education. Absent extraordinary circumstances,
implementation grants are limited to the amounts outlined in the application.
The Georgia Department of Education is not currently granting planning and
implementation grants. Please consult the U.S. Department of Education’s
website at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oii/csp/index.html
for more information regarding the Federal Charter Schools Program.
Regulations Governing Charter Schools
Which state laws
and State Board of Education rules MAY be waived by a charter school?
A charter school may waive most state laws and State Board of Education
rules, with the exception of those listed below.
Which state and
federal laws and State Board of Education rules MAY NOT be waived by a charter
Charter schools cannot waive any federal, state, and local rules,
regulations, court orders, and statutes relating to civil rights; insurance; the
protection of the physical health and safety of school students, employees, and
visitors; conflicting interest transactions; the prevention of unlawful
conduct; reporting requirements; funding formulas; or accountability requirements.
Federal laws that cannot be waived include the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind), the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and all applicable civil rights legislation.
schools subject to “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) and other accountability
requirements of No Child Left Behind?
Yes, these accountability requirements are known as the College
and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) and Beating the Odds (BTO).
May a charter
school focus on a special population of students?
Provided that a school adheres to the laws regarding open
admissions, a charter school may, through its educational focus, target a
particular population of students with a specific need, such as students with
disabilities, English language learners, or students at risk for dropping out
of school. Petitioners considering such a model are advised to take the
necessary precautions and to work closely with their authorizer to ensure
compliance with state and federal laws.
charter schools required to organize and operate as a non-profit organization?
charter schools required to organize and operate as a non-profit organization?
Staff Qualifications, Certification, and Compensation
Must teachers in
charter schools be certified?
State certification requirements are one of the provisions that
charter schools are permitted to waive if they so choose. Charter schools have
the broad flexibility allowed under the Charter Schools Act to exercise this
option. However, charter schools must comply with federal requirements for
“highly qualified” teachers under Title IIA of No Child Left Behind. The
certification levels of proposed teachers may be considered by the local and
state authorizers when evaluating the petition.
qualifications do charter school paraprofessionals have to meet?
At a minimum, paraprofessionals must pass a criminal background
check and are subject to the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind
employed by a charter school paid according to Georgia’s Salary Schedule?
The charter petition defines the salary schedule for certified
teachers. The salary schedule may or may not be the Georgia Annual/Monthly
Teacher & Administrator Salary Schedule for teachers. Conversion charter
schools often continue to name the local board of education as the employer
with no change to benefits and the salary schedule.
participate in the Georgia Teacher Retirement System (TRS)?
Teachers at charter schools are
required to be members of the Teachers Retirement System.
should the petition budget be?
The budget included in the charter petition should be as
specific as possible to ensure the maximum amount of transparency. Local boards
of education must provide to charter schools, for inclusion in the charter
petition and contract, the base per-pupil amount that the school will receive
upon execution of the charter contract as long as the school system receives
state and local revenues upon which the approved school budget is based.
Petitioners should include average teacher salaries and conservative revenue
projections. Competitive grants should be purged from the petition budget. The
petitioner must also make sure that charitable contributions have been
reasonably assured before adding them to the budget projections.
Can the Charter
Schools Division provide me with examples of good budgets?
Past petitions are posted on the charter website for the public
to view. This is a good opportunity to learn from former petitioners.
Program and Academic Goals
How do I know if
the academic and performance-based goals in my petition are rigorous?
Petitioners will be asked to present the charter school’s
performance objectives for the proposed charter term using required College and
Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) and Beating the Odds (BTO) goals as the
basis for planning those objectives. These CCRPI and BTO goals will be part of
the charter contract. Petitioners should do their research in order to
establish rigorous and appropriate academic goals and objectives. Petitioners
should become familiar with the academic performance of other schools in their
area, as well as the academic goals of successful schools, in order to
determine that they are setting goals that will raise student achievement.
What are SMART
Academic goals and objectives presented in the petition should
be specific, measureable, attainable, rigorous, and
timely. Petition reviewers will be looking for goals and objectives that
meet these criteria.
Where can I find
information about serving special populations of students, such as English
language learners, students with disabilities, and gifted students?
Charter schools, as public schools, must serve all students,
including populations with unique needs, such as English language learners,
students with disabilities, and gifted students. A successful petition
demonstrates that the petitioners are capable of adequately and appropriately
serving these populations. Petitioners should research state and federal
requirements regarding the identification, service, and assessment of special
student populations. Resources include the Georgia Department of Education’s
website and the United States Department of Education website. The Georgia
Department of Education also provides training opportunities with regard to
serving special student populations. Please consult the Georgia Department of
Education’s website at www.gadoe.org for
What is the
duration of a charter?
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. Section 20-2-2067.1(b), the State Board of
Education typically grants 5-year charters. At the request of the petitioner,
this term may be shorter. Charter terms may not exceed 10 years.
May a charter be
Yes, a charter contract may be amended pursuant to O.C.G.A.
Section 20-2-2067.1. Prior to submitting a charter amendment, charter schools
must first contact the Charter Schools Division to determine if an amendment is
necessary or if an administrative clarification is appropriate. The charter
amendment process is reserved for major changes to a charter’s terms and
conditions. The administrative clarification process is appropriate for certain
changes that are not substantial enough to require a formal amendment.
Administrative clarifications may be approved by the Georgia Department of
Education in appropriate cases. Any proposed amendment or administrative
clarification must comply with the current State Board of Education Charter
Schools Rule and related law to be considered for approval. If required, charter
amendments must be agreed to and approved by all parties to the charter prior
to implementation. Please note that charter schools may not submit a proposed
amendment during the last six months of the charter term.
When contacting the Charter Schools Division regarding a
proposed change to a charter, please provide the following information:
The specific charter provision(s) that the charter school seeks
The proposed change(s); and
The rationale for seeking the change(s).
After considering this information, the Charter Schools Division
will provide additional instruction regarding the required procedure for either
the amendment or administrative clarification process. Amendments are subject
to local and state board approval.
May a charter be
Yes, a charter contract may be terminated pursuant to O.C.G.A.
circumstances can a charter be terminated?
A charter may be terminated under the following circumstances:
majority of parents guardians of enrolled students OR a majority of
faculty and instructional staff vote to request that the State Board of Education
terminate the charter.
State Board of Education finds that a school has failed to comply with any
recommendation or direction of the state board, has failed to adhere to
terms of its charter, has failed to comply with generally accepted
standards of fiscal management, has violated applicable laws, or finds
evidence that the continued operation of the school would be contrary to
the best interests of the students or the community. Prior to commencing
termination proceedings, the Georgia Department of Education or the local
board(s) of education may place a charter school on probation if it has
reason to believe that any of the above have occurred or is imminent.
the written request of a local board of education, provided that the local
board provided reasonable notice to the school and an opportunity for a
Please consult O.C.G.A Section 20-2-2068 and State Board of
Education Rule 160-4-9-.06 for more details regarding the termination of a
charter and the probation process.
Whom can I contact
if I did not find the answer to my question here?