SB 1241 Alters charter school laws
LR Number:2999S.01I Fiscal Note:2999-01
Last Action:02/16/04 - Second Read and Referred S Education Committee Journal page:S320
Effective Date:August 28, 2004
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Current Bill Summary

SB 1241 - This act creates numerous revisions to laws concerning charter schools.

SECTION 160.400 - Charter schools may be operated in the currently authorized territories, even if the existing school district no longer exists or includes that territory. The act clarifies that charter schools may be sponsored by a public 4- year college or university in a county containing an eligible school district, even if the college or university is not in the school district. The act alters the provision concerning school buildings owned or controlled by a school district in which charter schools may be established.

The act constructs a Charter School Sponsor Oversight and Accountability Fund, with grant funding administered by the office of administration. Funds shall be transferred annually by the State Treasurer, based upon the number of charter schools and charter school enrollment the previous year. Approved sponsors shall receive $23,400 per school sponsored the previous year plus 0.5% of per pupil operating revenues for each student enrolled in such school the previous year. Any sponsor may apply and must demonstrate compliance of all requirements of law. Grant funds shall be prorated if necessary when funds are inadequate. Unused funds shall be retained and used to reduce the next year's withholding from charter school revenues.

Prior to granting or renewing a charter, sponsors must complete criminal background checks on the members of the Board of Directors of any nonprofit corporation applying to establish a charter school. No member of a charter school board may be employed by the charter school nor have a significant interest in any entity employed by or contracting with the board.

SECTION 160.403 - This section establishes the Public Charter School Board, which shall be responsible for reviewing charter applications and granting or not granting charters. The Public Charter School Board shall notify applicants of a decision, in writing, within sixty days of submissions of applications. The public charter school board shall develop policies and procedures to measure and report the performance of schools and students for whom the board grants charters. The policies and procedures shall be designed to be compatible with the educational concept of the charter and philosophy of charter schools. Student progress shall be measured using data from a variety of vehicles.

The act also creates the Public Charter School Board Fund, which shall be used exclusively for the operation of the public charter school board. Subject to appropriation, the state treasurer shall, on the first business day of each fiscal year, transfer, from general revenue to the public charter school board fund, $99,000 on an annual basis.

The act mandates that DESE shall provide all administrative support required by the public charter school board while utilizing the same resources and personnel that it currently provides to the state board of education without assigning additional costs to the public charter school board. The department of elementary and secondary education shall not have budgetary authority over the development of budgetary requests or the expenditures of funds.

SECTION 160.405 - This section revises the procedure and time line for chartering a school. A charter school proponent shall provide the local school district and the State Board of Education with copies of the charter school application within five days of submitting the application to the proposed sponsor. The sponsor's decision of approval or denial must be made within 90 days of filing the proposed charter (rather than the current 60); if the charter is denied, written notice must be served on the State Board of Education within five days. The State Board has 60 days to deny or grant a proposed charter and shall provide reasons for denial in writing, if applicable.

Charter schools are required to publish audits and financial reports. Charter schools may publish audit reports and annual financial reports via the internet on the secretary of state's website in lieu of other publishing requirements. A charter may be revoked for failure to provide necessary compliance information, or the sponsor may require specified remedial action of the school.

Charter school board members, officers and employees who willfully violate charter school laws or neglect to perform any duty in the charter school laws are guilty of a misdemeanor as other public school employees are under current law. A charter school board may participate in the Missouri Public Entity Risk Management Fund to the same extent as a school board. The act allows a charter school to be located on the property of a school district without the agreement of the governing board of that district.

SECTION 160.410 - Charter schools must make available the charter, the results of background checks, and the public report card to the parent of guardian of any pupil eligible to seek to enroll at the school. Reasonable fees may be charged for such copies.

SECTION 160.415 - This section alters the payment mechanism for state (and federal) aid to charter schools by mandating that DESE pay the charter schools directly. Currently, DESE pays school districts and the school districts forward the appropriate allotment to the charter schools inside their district. If DESE overpays or underpays the amount due the charter school, such over or under payment shall be repaid by the public charter school or credited to the public charter school in twelve equal payments in the next fiscal year. Any dispute between DESE, the school district, and a charter school regarding funding shall be resolved by the administrative hearing commission, with the option of judicial review. If a dispute should occur, DESE is mandated to make every administrative and statutory effort to allow the continued education of children in their current public charter school educational setting and not take action which prevents (either directly or indirectly) the continued operation of a charter school. Further, DESE is forbidden to make an arbitrary and capricious decision which negatively impacts the education of a child.

SECTION 160.420 - This section allows district teachers employed in charter schools to retain tenure status and seniority rights for three years. Charter schools are permitted to hire noncertificated administrators.

SECTION 167.349 - This section allows any campus of the state university located in a county of the third classification (University of Missouri-Rolla) to sponsor charter schools.

This act is similar to SB 187 (2003).