New Campus Charter Schools Established by Independent School Districts - Eligibility to Apply for 2013-2014 Start-Up Funding

Word version of letter including attachments

Upon award by the United States Department of Education (USDE) of grant funds to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) under Title V, Part B, Subpart 1 – Charter School Programs of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, TEA may award subgrants to eligible charter schools that are scheduled to begin operation in fall 2013.  This letter serves as notice that, upon the USDE’s award to TEA, grant funding may be available for new campus charters that are approved no later than January 31, 2013, by a school district’s local board of trustees.  No exceptions or extensions to this deadline will be granted.  Please note that this letter applies only to new campus charters created in accordance with Texas Education Code (TEC), Chapter 12, Subchapter C, that meet eligibility requirements as outlined in the competitive grant application that TEA will release in January 2013.  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 2013-2014 school year.  This funding is contingent upon the receipt of continuation funding from the USDE for the Texas Charter School Program (CSP).

Eligibility to Apply for Funding Under the 2013-2014 Public Charter School Start-Up Grant
To be considered eligible to apply for the federal start-up grant funds, a campus charter school must be approved in accordance with TEC, Chapter 12, Subchapter C; must meet the federal definition of a charter school as outlined in Title V, Part B, Subpart 1 of the NCLB Act, Section 5210 (see Attachment 1); and must not have previously received public CSP start-up funds.  For the purpose of establishing eligibility to apply for 2013-2014 start-up funding, a school district’s local board of trustees must approve the campus charter by January 31, 2013.  Approval by the board of trustees means that: (1) the charter application process has been completed according to the local district’s policy for approving campus charter schools; (2) the charter application has been presented to the board for review; and (3) the board subsequently has approved the charter application by the deadline date.  Approval by the school district’s local board of trustees should be documented in the approved minutes of the board meeting during which the campus charter was approved.  Simply obtaining the local board of trustee’s approval of an entity’s intent to establish a charter will notsuffice as documentation to establish eligibility to apply for funding under this grant for the 2013-2014 school year.

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, once the
2013-2014 funding application becomes available.  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 will have unique county-district-campus numbers and be designated as campus charters in the Texas Education Directory, AskTED, in fall 2013 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 funding.

Recently, the USDE 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 2013-2014 Public Charter School Start-Up Grant will be administered 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:
    1. a copy of the local district’s policy for authorizing campus charter schools; AND
    2. 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
    3. the contract between the school district and the entity to provide educational services to the district through the campus or program 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:
    1. the mission of the campus charter;
    2. an explanation of the development of the proposed campus charter and the rationale for the district granting a charter to the new district campus;
    3. 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;
    4. 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;
    5. 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
    6. a valid certificate of occupancy, or its equivalent, for the instructional facility, if the location of the campus charter has been determined.

A webinar will be conducted on Thursday, October 4, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., for school districts that may be interested in creating new 2013-2014 campus charters in accordance with state and federal guidelines and will address the timeline for funding eligibility under the competitive 2013-2014 Public Charter School Start-Up Grant.  School district superintendents and/or their designees may register for this webinar at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/732872898.  The amount of available funding for each new charter will be based upon the number of eligible new charters to apply for and receive these grant funds via the competitive RFA process and the receipt of continuation funding from the USDE for this project.

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

Sincerely,

Laura Taylor
Associate Commissioner
Department of Accreditation and School Improvement