A charter school is a public school operated independently under a performance agreement with a chartering authority, such as a school district. The performance agreement spells out the school's education program, goals, and other features. A charter school is free from most regulations that apply to school districts. It usually is able to hire its own staff but can be closed for failure to meet its promises regarding student performance or for financial mismanagement.
School boards are expected to grant the charter unless they make written findings that the petitioners have proposed an unsound education program, are demonstrably unlikely to implement the charter, or do not meet specific petition requirements. If a district denies a charter, petitioners can go to the county board of education. If the county board denies a charter request or an appeal, then petitioners can take their case to the State Board of Education.
Charter schools are approved for up to five years, with renewal generally required every five years. A charter can be revoked for:
However, unless the violation constitutes a severe and imminent threat to the health or safety of students, charter operators are given a chance to remedy the situation. In addition, the State Board of Education has the authority to revoke a charter if it finds fiscal mismanagement. Charter schools are also held accountable for the performance of their students on statewide standards tests and are ranked according to the Academic Performance Index (API) with a few exceptions. Their students must also make adequate yearly progress (AYP), based on test scores, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
Admission cannot be based on where a student lives. Charter High School of the Arts is open to every student regardless of where they or their families reside.
Charter schools receive money on a per-pupil basis from the state and federal governments either directly or through their chartering authority. Like other schools, they receive extra funding for students who are English learners or from low-income families. They also have more flexibility in how they use many state categorical funds, which for regular schools are targeted for specific students or programs. Charter schools may also rely on independent fund-raising, grants, and corporate sponsors for additional funds.
While a charter school is required to consult regularly with parents and teachers about its education program, it is generally not required to have any particular type of governing body or board. The Charter High School of the Arts Board of Trustees is comprised of parents and members of the community at large. Terms are served for three years. All information (other than text in italics) taken from EdSource, Charter Schools in California. May 2005.