January 8, 2016
Southern Torch (3337 articles)
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Charter schools coming to Alabama

By Joseph M. Morgan

joseph@southerntorch.com

MONTGOMERY, Ala.—Charter schools are expected to open in Alabama in 2017.

Alabama Public Charter School Commission Chairman Ed Richardson said Tuesday that the fall of 2017 is when the first charter school is expected to open in the state.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that have autonomy in finance, personnel, scheduling, curriculum, instruction and procurement that regular public schools do not have.

Alabama was the 43rd state to authorize charter schools. The law allowed up to 10 start-up charter schools a year in the state. The Alabama Legislature last year approved GOP-backed legislation to allow charter schools in the state for the first time.

Charter schools are expected to meet certain performance goals spelled out in the charter contract. Start-up charter schools are governed by independent boards that must be 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt organizations.

To start a charter school, a local organization will apply to an “authorizer,” either the local board of education or the Alabama Public Charter School Commission. Organizations in districts where school boards choose not to authorize charters can apply to the Alabama Public Charter School Commission.

Earlier this week the commission hammered out the finishing touches on an application template for groups interested in starting charter schools. The template is expected to be approved within a few months. The commission discussed technical revisions on the charter school application template in the hopes of having it approved within a few weeks.

Richardson said the proposed application would pave the way for the potential opening of charter schools — publicly funded but operated by private entities — in the fall of 2017.

“It is the most time-sensitive document. Interested applicants need to know what to expect,” Richardson said. “We’re anticipating the fall of ‘17 before the first one of these kicks off.”

In the proposed 20-plus page form, applicants will have to submit information about their financial management, operations plan and curriculum.

State law allows up to 10 startup charter schools each year. Local school boards, in addition to the state, can authorize the opening of charter schools. Four school systems have applied to be able to authorize charter schools.

Richardson predicts that fewer than the maximum 10 charter schools will open in the fall of 2017, the earliest charters are expected to begin operating in the state.

“If we have 10 the first year I’ll be very surprised,” Commission Chairman Ed Richardson said. “I think there will just be very few.”

Charter contracts will be for five years. According to the charter school law, authorizers can cancel or not renew the charter contract if the school fails to make adequate progress toward the goals spelled out in the charter.

Southern Torch

Southern Torch

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