Q. What is a Charter School?
A. Charter schools are tuition free public schools that offer choice for parents and students and place the highest priority on providing a better quality education. Charter schools are funded much like a public school, but each charter school is governed privately by an independent board of directors. Unlike traditional public schools, every charter school must demonstrate success both in financial and academic areas, or it will lose its charter.
Q. How are Charter Schools funded?
A. Each public school receives FTE (Full Time Equivalent) funding for each student from the State of Florida. The money comes from ad valorem taxes paid by the general public. The state has a formula for redistributing the money back to each district based upon the total number of students enrolled and counted during two separate time frames in October and February each year. The money follows the individual student and becomes the operating capital for each public school district and each charter school. The district serves as the oversight sponsor for the charter school and retains 5% of the total revenue for which the charter qualifies. Charter schools must be fiscally sound and act in a responsible business manner or potentially lose their charter.
Q. How can my child attend one of Bay Haven’s schools?
A. Simply fill out an online application for the appropriate level school for your child. You can apply for Bay Haven’s K – 5 and separately for North Bay Haven’s K – 5. You can do the same for each middle school.
Q. Does my child become automatically enrolled?
A. All Bay Haven schools are open to any child in Bay County to apply regardless of race, creed, color, gender, income or disability. As long as space is available the student application will be honored with enrollment pending space. If the classes that are capped by the charter contract are full, then the charter school organization shall perform a public lottery to determine a hierarchy of enrollment opportunity in a fair and equitable manner. The lotteries at Bay Haven and North Bay Haven are audited by Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC. for statutory compliance.
Q. Once my child is in one of the Bay Haven schools are we guaranteed to stay in the schools?
A. As long as you fulfill the criteria set forth in the schools charter which is:
- Maintain the minimum standards for attendance
- Maintain the minimum standards for not violating the tardy or uniform policies
- Maintain the appropriate standards for discipline
- Maintain the requirements for the minimum number of 20 volunteer hours per family per year
Q. How is the Bay Haven organization designed?
A. The Board of Directors serve as unpaid volunteers with a fiduciary responsibility to oversee the approval of policies and the school budgets. The Chief Education Officer acts as a superintendent to lead the educational operations of the five schools and the Bay Haven district office with exception of the CFO's office and HR. The Chief Financial Officer oversees the business operations of the school and is directly responsible to the Board. The Human Resources Director is responsible directly to the Board. The Board has a 501(c)3 non-profit tax exempt status.
Q. How are charter schools created, organized, and operated?
A. Charter schools are created when:
- An individual, a group of parents or teachers, a business, a municipality, or a legal entity submits an application to the school district
- The school district approves the application
- The applicants form a governing board that negotiates a contract with the district school board
- The applicants and district school board agree upon a charter or contract
The district school board then becomes the sponsor of the charter school. The negotiated contract outlines expectations of both parties regarding the school's academic and financial performance. A charter school must be organized as, or be operated by, a nonprofit organization. The charter school may serve at-risk students, or offer a specialized curriculum or core academic program, provide early intervention programs, or serve exceptional education students.
Q. Are virtual charter schools allowed?
A. In 2011, legislation was passed permitting the operation of virtual charter schools to provide full-time online instruction to eligible students. A virtual charter school must contract with an approved provider of virtual instruction services in accordance with s. 1002.45, F.S.
Q. How does the application process work for a charter school?
A. As required in s.1002.33(6), F.S., a school board receives and reviews all charter school applications and, within 60 days of receipt, must approve or deny the application. All charter applicants must prepare and submit an application on a model application form prepared by the Department, which does the following:
- Demonstrates how the school will use the guiding principles
- Provides a detailed curriculum
- Contains goals and objectives for improving student learning
- Describes the separate reading curricula and differentiated strategies
- Contains an annual financial plan If a school board denies an application
It must provide specific written reasons within 10 calendar days. The charter school applicant then has 30 calendar days to appeal the denial. The appeal is reviewed by the State Board of Education and the State Board’s decision is a final action subject to judicial review.
Q. What is the Charter School Appeal Commission?
A. The Charter School Appeal Commission assists the State Board of Education in fairly and impartially reviewing the appeals by applicants whose charter applications have been denied. The Commission is comprised of members appointed by the Commissioner and chaired by the Commissioner or a named designee. An equal number of charter school operators and district staff shall be present to hear an appeal.
Q. What specific statutory requirements apply to charter school operations?
A. A charter school is statutorily required to (s.1002.33(9),F.S.):
- Be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and operations
- Be accountable to the school district for its performance
- Not charge tuition or fees
- Comply with all applicable state and local health, safety, and civil rights requirements
- Not discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, sex, handicap, or marital status
- Subject itself to and pay for an annual financial audit
- Maintain all financial records that constitute its accounting system in accordance with current law
- Annually adopt and maintain an operating budget
- Fully participate in the state’s education accountability program
Q. Are there parental involvement requirements for charter schools?
A. Every charter school's governing board is required to appoint a representative to facilitate parental involvement, provide access to information, assist parents and others with questions and concerns, and resolve disputes. The representative must reside in the school district. The representative may be a governing board member, employee, or individual contracted to represent the governing board. Contact information for the representative must be provided in writing to parents each year, and must be posted prominently on the charter school's web site if a web site is maintained by the charter school. Also, each charter school's governing board must hold at least two public meetings per school year in the school district. The meetings must be noticed, open, and accessible to the public. Attendees must be provided an opportunity to offer input regarding the schools operations and receive information about the school. The representative appointed by the governing board must be physically present at the two required meetings.
Q. Are charter schools exempt from state statutes?
A. Charter schools are generally exempt from the Florida K-20 Education Code (Ch. 1000-1013, F.S.), except those statutes that:
- Specifically apply to charter schools
- Pertain to the student assessment program and school grading system
- Pertain to the provision of services to students with disabilities
- Pertain to civil rights, student health, safety, and welfare
- Relate to maximum class size, except the calculation for compliance shall be the average at the school level
Charter schools must also comply with any statute governing public records, public meetings and records,public inspection, and penalties (Ch. 119, F.S.). In addition, charter schools must use facilities that comply with the Florida Building Code (Ch. 553, F.S.) and Florida Fire Prevention Code (s. 633.025, F.S.), but are exempt from compliance with the State Requirements for Educational Facilities (SREF). A local governing authority may not impose local building requirements more stringent than those in the Florida Building Code and charter schools are exempt from ad valorem taxes and fees charged for building licenses.
Q. Are charter school teachers required to be certified?
A. Teachers employed by or under contract to a charter school are required to be certified (Ch. 1012, F.S.).
Q. Are charter school administrators required to be certified?
A. Charter school administrators are not required to be certified.
Q. What are conversion charter schools?
A. Conversion charter schools are traditional public schools that have been converted to charter schools. The school must have operated for at least two years as a traditional public school (including a school-within-a-school) in a school district before conversion. Application for a conversion may be made by a parent, teacher, principal, district school board or school advisory council, but must be approved by a majority of the teachers and a majority of the parents. A majority of the parents must participate in the vote. The charter for a conversion charter school must identify the alternative arrangements that will be put in place to serve current students that choose not to attend the school after it is converted. Conversion charter schools are not eligible for charter school capital outlay funding if the conversion charter school operates in facilities provided to them by the school district.
Q. What are charter schools-in-the-workplace?
A. Charter schools-in-the-workplace are sponsored by local school districts in partnership with a company or business. Such charter schools usually target the children of the employees of a company or business.
Q. What are charter schools-in-a-municipality?
A. Charter schools-in-a-municipality are sponsored by local school districts in partnership with a municipality. Such schools enroll students based upon a random lottery that involves all of the children of the residents of the municipality and according to the racial/ethnic balance reflective of the community or other public schools in the same school district.
Q. What are community college charter schools?
A. Community college charter schools are statutorily authorized when a public community college, in cooperation with the school board or boards within the college’s service area, develops a charter school that offers secondary education and allows students to obtain an associate’s degree upon graduation from high school.
Q. What is a high-performing charter school?
A. According to s. 1002.332, F.S., a high-performing charter school system is a municipality, other public entity, private non-profit corporation with tax-exempt status under s. 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or a private for-profit education management corporation that meets each of the following criteria:
- Operates at least three high-performing charter schools in the state
- Operates a system of charter schools in which at least 50% of the charter schools are high-performing, with no schools that received a grade of "D" or "F"
- Has not received a financial audit that revealed one or more of the financial emergency conditions set forth in s. 218.503, F.S. for any charter school within their system
Q. What are the benefits offered to a high-performing charter school?
A. A high-performing charter school is authorized to:
- Increase its student enrollment once per school year by up to 15% more than the capacity identified in the charter
- Expand grade levels within K-12 to add grade levels not already served
- Submit quarterly rather than monthly financial statements to the sponsor
- Consolidate under a single charter the charters of multiple high-performing charter schools operated in the same district by the charter school's governing board
- Receive a modification of its charter to a term of 15 years
- Replicate its educational program in any district in the state
A high-performing charter school must notify its sponsor, in writing, by March 1 if it plans to increase enrollment or expand grade levels for the next school year. A high-performing charter school may submit an application in any school district in the state to establish and operate a new charter school that will substantially replicate its educational program. A high-performing charter school may not establish more than one charter school within the state in any year. A high-performing charter school system may also replicate one of its high-performing charter schools in the same manner.
Q. How do the instructional and administrative personnel of a charter school compare with the personnel of a traditional public school?
A. Florida Statutes require that teachers employed by or under contract with a charter school be certified in the same manner as all other public school teachers in Florida.