New Campus Charter Schools by ISDs - Eligibility and Application for 2016-2018 Start-Up Grant Funding

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ACTION REQUIRED

August 25, 2015

TO THE ADMINISTRATOR ADDRESSED:

SUBJECT:  New Campus Charter Schools Established by Independent School Districts - Eligibility and Application for 2016-2018 Public Charter School Program Start-Up Grant Funding

The purpose of this letter is to provide your district information about the possible availability of federal Charter School Program (CSP) start-up grant funding. Funding for next year is contingent upon the United States Department of Education’s (USDE’s) award to the Texas Education Agency (TEA).  Subgrant funding may be available for new campus charters that are approved by a school district’s board of trustees no later than December 16, 2015. If awarded by the USDE, TEA may award subgrants to eligible charter schools that are scheduled to begin operation in the fall of 2016. The agency anticipates the release of the competitive grant application in October 2015. The purpose of releasing this grant at this time is to allow for newly-created campus charters to be awarded start-up grant funding for planning purposes prior to the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

Eligibility for Funding Under the 2016-2018 Public CSP Start-Up Grant – Title V, Part B, Subpart 1 – Charter School Programs of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act

To be considered eligible to apply for the federal start-up grant funds, a campus charter school must be approved no later than December 16, 2015, by the district’s board of trustees, in accordance with Texas Education Code (TEC), Chapter 12, Subchapter C, and meet the federal definition of a charter school. (See Attachment 1.) Additionally, the campus charter must not have previously received public CSP start-up funds.

Approval by the board of trustees means that:

(1)   the school district has adopted a policy for the charter campus approval process;

(2)   the charter application process has been completed according to the district’s policy;

(3)   the charter application has been presented to the board for review; and

(4)   the board subsequently has approved the charter application by the deadline date.

The minutes of the board meeting should reflect the approval and authorization of the campus charter.

Simply obtaining the board of trustee’s approval of an entity’s intent to establish a charter will not suffice as documentation to establish eligibility to apply for funding under this federal grant.

In addition to fulfilling the requirements in TEC, Chapter 12, Subchapter C, school districts must be prepared to submit all information required by federal statute and guidance in the CSP grant application, including documentation verifying the district’s eligibility to apply for these grant funds. Attached is an excerpt from Section 5203 of Title V, Part B, Subpart 1 of the NCLB Act, which outlines information required from CSP grant recipients. (See Attachment 2.)

Only charter campuses that have unique county-district-campus numbers and are designated as campus charters in the Texas Education Directory, AskTED, by the fall of 2016 are eligible to apply for funding. Due to reporting requirements to the USDE, a program charter that remains part of another campus and does not have a unique campus number is not eligible to apply for federal funding.

The USDE has provided guidance and direction with regard to ensuring that each eligible applicant meets the federal definition of a “charter school” and incorporates the following components into its campus charter:

  • a high degree of flexibility and autonomy over the school’s budget, expenditures, personnel, daily operations, and other areas that is above and beyond the degree of flexibility and autonomy afforded to traditional campuses within the district;
      
  • systems and processes in the local district’s policy for approving campus charter schools that allow for the continued operation of successful Subchapter C charter schools;
      
  • systems and processes in the local district’s policy for conducting an annual independent audit of the financial operations of the campus charter and the manner in which the campus will provide the necessary data for the school district to report on the campus charter’s locally-developed objectives; and
      
  • evidence that the sponsoring local education agency (LEA) will not deduct any funds from this grant for administrative fees unless the campus charter voluntarily enters into such an agreement.

As a result, these components will be incorporated into the federal start-up grant application used to determine funding eligibility.

Submittal of Campus Charter School Approval Documents

The 2016-2018 Public Charter School Program Start-Up Grant will be awarded via a competitive request for application (RFA). As such, school districts interested in establishing a new campus charter will be required to submit various documents to the TEA in order to demonstrate that the campus charter will meet the state and federal requirements necessary to be considered eligible to apply for funding under the federal start-up grant. This documentation will be submitted in accordance with the RFA and likely will include, but not be limited to, the following:

1.     Appropriate authorization to charter, including:
  

a.     a copy of the local district’s policy for authorizing campus charter schools; AND

b.     a copy of the district’s charter application for the authorized campus charter; AND

c.      a copy of the performance contract with the principal or chief operating officer of the campus charter [TEC §12.0531]; AND

d.     either of the following:

i.     the petition presented to the board of trustees that was signed by the parents of a majority of the students at the school campus and a majority of the classroom teachers at that school campus requesting a campus charter [TEC §12.052, §12.053]; OR

ii.     the contract between the school district and the entity to provide educational services to the district through the campus charter and at a facility located in the boundaries of the district [TEC §12.0521].

2.     Approved minutes from the local board of trustees meeting in which the charter was granted, OR a board agenda with an action item to consider or approve the campus charter and draft minutes from the local board of trustees meeting in which the charter was granted.

 

3.     Attachment 1 signed by the superintendent. 

4.     Campus Charter Information Form.  (See Attachment 3.)

5.     A narrative description on district letterhead signed by the superintendent which contains:
  

a.     the mission of the campus charter;

b.     an explanation of the development of the proposed campus charter and the rationale for the district granting a charter to the new district campus;

c.      a detailed description, including supporting documentation, of the ways in which the campus charter will be permitted to govern autonomously, as evidenced by the day-to-day decision makers at the campus charter and their input with regard to the school’s curriculum, calendar, budget, and daily operations, and how this autonomy is above and beyond the degree of flexibility and autonomy afforded to traditional campuses within the district;

d.     a detailed description, including supporting documentation, that explains the ways in which the school district plans to conduct an independent annual financial audit of the campus charter, separate and apart from the district’s independent annual financial audit, and the manner in which the campus will provide the necessary data for the school district to report on its locally-developed objectives;

e.     the methods and timelines that the district will use to ensure that the campus charter receives all federal funds to which its students are entitled; and

f.       a valid certificate of occupancy, or its equivalent, for the instructional facility, if the location of the campus charter has been determined.

A presentation that addresses the timeline for funding eligibility under the competitive 2016-2018 Public Charter School Program Start-Up Grant is available for school districts interested in creating new 2016-2017 campus charters in accordance with state and federal guidelines.  This presentation may be accessed at http://tea.texas.gov/Texas_Schools/Charter_Schools/Charter_Schools_-_Campus_Charters/. The amount of available funding for each new charter will be based upon the number of eligible applicants that apply for and are awarded a grant award and funding via the competitive RFA process for this project.

If you have any questions regarding the Public CSP Start-Up Grant, please contact Arnoldo Alaniz in the Division of Charter School Administration at (512) 463-9575, Extension 5, or via email at arnoldo.alaniz@tea.texas.gov

Sincerely,

Sally Partridge, Associate Commissioner

Accreditation and School Improvement

For Attachment, see Word version.