Charter Schools: Does the state allow existing public schools to convert to charter schools?

Charter Schools: Does the state allow existing public schools to convert to charter schools?

January 2020


This resource contains information about the 45 states, plus the District of Columbia, with charter school laws. It does not contain any information for the five states that have not enacted charter school laws.  
 

Does the state allow existing public schools to convert to charter schools?
Alabama Yes. A local board may convert an existing school.

Citations: Ala. Code § 16-6F-7
Alaska Yes. However, this is not addressed in statute. Conversions are not prohibited, and the state board is allowed by law to adopt regulations to implement charter schools.

Citations: Alaska Stat. Ann. § 14.03.290
Arizona No. Neither the state board for charter schools nor the state board of education (nor any of the other authorizing entities) shall grant a charter to a school district governing board for a new charter school or for the conversion of an existing district public school to a charter school.

Citations: Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-183
Arkansas Yes

Citations: Ark. Code Ann. § 6-23-103
California Yes. A district may choose to convert all of its schools if 50% of teachers sign a petition and the petition is approved by both the superintendent of public instruction and the state board of education.

Citations: Cal. Educ. Code § 47605; Cal. Educ. Code § 47606
Colorado Yes. An independent charter school is defined as a charter approved by a local district. The state board may recommend conversion of a public school to an independent charter school and supervises requests for proposals for such a conversion. State law prohibits conversion of private or home-based schools.

Citations: Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 22-30.5-302; Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 22-30.5-303
Connecticut Yes. “Local charter school” means a public school or part of a public school that is converted into a charter school.

Citations: Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 10-66aa
Delaware Yes. However, a public school may only be converted by approval of the board of the school district in which it is located. The charter application must have received the approval of over 50% of the teachers and over 50% of the parents residing in the attendance area of the school. After 30 days prior written notice, all teachers and parents eligible attend a public meeting to vote on the proposed conversion. Such approval, however, is not required where a district school board converts a choice school or program with a specific career or academic subject matter focus already approved to a charter school with the same focus.

Citations: Del. Code Ann. tit. 14, § 507
District of Columbia Yes. Petitions to convert an existing public school into a charter school must be signed by two-thirds of the total number of parents of students attending the school and the total number of adult students attending the school, and must be endorsed by at least two-thirds of the school's full-time teachers. Copies of the petition must be provided to parents, adult students, employees, parents of students attending a school in the attendance zone of the public school proposed to be converted, and each Advisory Neighborhood Commission in the attendance area.

In addition, state law allows private or independent schools to convert to a charter school.

Citations: D.C. Code Ann. § 38-1802.01
Florida Yes. The school must have been in operation for at least 2 years, and must demonstrate support of at least 50% of the teachers employed at the school and 50% of voting parents with students enrolled in the school.

Citations: Fla. Stat. Ann. § 1002.33
Georgia Yes. Applications must be agreed to by a majority of the faculty and instructional staff at the school and the majority of parents of students enrolled in the local school.

Citations: Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2062; Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2063; Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2064
Hawaii Yes. The following organizations may create an applicant governing board to create and submit an application for a conversion charter school:
  • A board established by a department school or a school community council.
  • A board established by a group of teachers or a group of administrators.
  • A board established by (but separate from) a nonprofit organization.

The application must be approved by a majority of the votes cast by existing administrative, support, and teacher personnel plus parents of students at the existing school.

Citations: Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 302D-13
Idaho Yes. Petitions for conversions are required to include at least 60% of teachers and at least 60% parent(s) of at least one student. No conversions of entire districts are allowed.

Citations: Idaho Code Ann. § 33-5205
Illinois Yes

Citations: 105 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/27A-5
Indiana Yes. However, all of the following conditions must apply:
  • At least 51% of the parents of students who attend the school have signed a petition requesting the conversion.
  • The school has been placed in either of the 2 lowest categories or designations of performance for 2 consecutive years.
  • The governing body votes to convert an existing school within the school corporation.
If a governing body operates a school that has been placed in either of the 2 lowest performance for 4 consecutive years, the governing body may not serve as that charter school's authorizer.

Citations: Ind. Code Ann. § 20-24-11-1
Iowa Yes. Applicants must demonstrate support from at least 50% of teachers employed at the school and 50% of voting parents whose children are enrolled in the school.

Citations: Iowa Code Ann. § 256F.1; Iowa Code Ann. § 256F.3
Kansas Yes. However, state law does not directly distinguish between start-up charter schools and conversion charter schools. Neither is explicitly defined. A charter school may be maintained in a separate facility or in an existing school facility if the charter school is operated separately from the other school in the shared facility--which would allow for a conversion within a school.Kansas law establishes another alternative education option via the Coalition of Innovative Districts Act.

Citations: Kan. Stat. Ann. § 72-4206; Kan. Stat. Ann. § 72-4221
Kentucky Yes. However, a conversion public charter school may only be established if:
  • A school has been identified by the department of education as performing in the lowest 5% of its level and 60% of the parents or guardians of students who attend the school have signed a petition requesting the conversion.
  • A school has been identified by the department of education as not performing in the lowest 5% of its level and 60% of the parents or guardians of students who attend the school have signed a petition requesting the conversion, which is approved by a majority vote of the local school board.
  • The local school board votes to convert an existing public school (school not scheduled for closure) over which it has authority.
A conversion is required to continue to comply with all federal and state requirements concerning the treatment of children with special needs and accept all students who attended the school prior to its conversion who wish to attend.

Citations: Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 160.1590; Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 160.1599
Louisiana Yes

Citations: La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 17:3973
Maine Yes. Applicants are required, however, to demonstrate support for the proposed conversion public charter school by submitting 2 petitions, one signed by a majority of teachers in the existing noncharter public school and the other signed by a majority of parents of students in the existing noncharter public school. If the school to be converted is the only public school option for students in the school administrative unit, the request for proposals must additionally require that the conversion be approved by voters in that school administrative unit.

Citations: Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. 20-A § 2401; Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. 20-A § 2406
Maryland Yes

Citations: Md. Code Ann., Educ. § 9-102
Massachusetts Yes

Citations: Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 71 § 89
Michigan No. However, If a public school academy meets the requirements related to performance and has the approval of its authorizing body, the board of directors of the public school academy may adopt a resolution choosing to convert the public school academy to a school of excellence. As a type of charter school, schools of excellence operate under charter contracts and other rules of charter schools.

Citations: Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 380.502a
Minnesota Yes. At least 60% of the full-time teachers at the school must sign a petition seeking conversion.

Citations: Minn. Stat. § 124E.06
Mississippi Yes. Applicants must provide a petition signed by either a majority of teachers in the existing noncharter public school, a majority of parents in the existing noncharter public school expressing support for the conversion, or the local school board must have a majority vote approving the conversion; or if the school is in a district under state conservatorship, by a majority vote of the state board of education.

Citations: Miss. Code Ann. § 37-28-5, § 37-28-15
Missouri Yes

Citations: Mo. Ann. Stat. § 160.405
Nevada No.

Citations: Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 388A.270; Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. 388A.080; Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. 388A.249
New Hampshire Yes. In districts with more than one school, the majority of prospective teachers in a school district must vote to approve the conversion. In districts one school, two-thirds of the teachers must vote to approve the conversion. In addition, the school superintendent and principal must approve.

Citations: N.H. Rev. Stat. § 194-B:3
New Jersey Yes. However, 51% of the teaching staff and 51% of the parents must sign a petition in support. A high-performing nonpublic school in a failing district may also apply to convert, although the school name, activities, instruction, and so on may not promote religious views.

Citations: N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:36A-4, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:36A-4.1
New Mexico No. However, a school district may apply to the department of education to convert to a charter school district.

Citations: N. M. Stat. Ann. § 22-8E-3
New York Yes. Parents of a majority of students in the existing school must vote in favor of converting the school to a charter school.

Citations: N.Y. Educ. Law § 2851
North Carolina Yes. Applications have to include statement of support signed by a majority of the teachers and support personnel and provide evidence that a significant number of parents support the application.

Citations: N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 115C-218.1
Ohio Yes. Applications for conversion charter schools must include alternative arrangements for current students and teachers who choose not to attend the converted school. Only local school boards or boards of education service centers may sponsor conversion schools. Sponsors of proposed conversion charter schools that would operate in an alliance municipal school district are subject to approval by the department of education, with some exceptions.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.02
Oklahoma Yes. A conversion school is a school created by converting all or part of a traditional public school in order to access any or all flexibilities afforded to a charter school. However, state law prohibits an entire district from becoming a charter school site.

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-132
Oregon Yes. However, all of the schools in a district may not become charter schools unless there is only one school in the district.

Citations: Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 338.035
Pennsylvania Yes. Any individual or organization authorized to establish a charter school may initiate the conversion of an existing school or portion of an existing school. More than 50% of the teaching staff and parents must have signed a petition in support of the conversion.

Citations: 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 17-1717-A
Rhode Island Yes. However, they may only convert as district charter schools (one of three types of charter schools). Prior to implementation, the proposed charter must receive the votes of teachers in the district equal to two-thirds of the teachers needed to staff the proposed school, and the teachers must state their desire to teach at the charter school. In addition, the school must receive parental support in the school district equal to one half of the number students who would need to attend the school. The parents must also state their desire to transfer their children to the proposed charter school.

Citations: R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-77.2-2; R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-77-2.1
South Carolina Yes. Two-thirds of instructional staff and faculty and parents must agree to the conversion.

Citations: S.C. Code Ann. § 59-40-100
Tennessee Yes. A public school may convert to a charter school if the parents of at least 60% enrolled students or at least 60% of teachers agree and sign a petition. An LEA may convert a public school to a charter school, and the decision may not be appealed to the state board. Students enrolled in an existing school to be converted to a charter school must be given the option to enroll in another school in the school district without penalty.

Citations: Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-13-106; Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-13-113
Texas Yes. An entire school district may convert to charter school status if the governing body of a home-rule school district submits a proposed charter amendment for legal review. An election must be held within 30 days and a charter amendment may be approved if it receives a majority vote in an election in which at least 25 percent of a school district’s registered voters participate. An individual school campus may convert to a charter school if the local school board is presented with a petitioned signed by a majority of parents and teachers at a school campus. Alternatively, local school boards may grant a charter to schools with a program operated by a charter school provider under contract with a public school to provide educational services, or to schools that received the lowest performance rating.

Citations: Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 12.020 et seq.
Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 12.051 et seq.
Utah Yes. At least two-thirds of teachers employed at the school and at least two-thirds of parents must sign a petition authorizing the school. If only a portion of the school is applying for conversion, then a simple majority must agree.

Citations: U.C.A. 1953 § 53G-5-401; U.C.A. 1953 § 53G-5-305; U.C.A. 1953 § 53G-5-302
Virginia Yes

Citations: Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-212.5
Washington No
West Virginia Yes

Citations: W. Va. Code, § 18-5G-8
W. Va. Code, § 18-5G-10
W. Va. Code, § 18-5G-11
Wisconsin Yes, but a school board may not convert all schools in a district to charter schools unless the board complies with specific provisions.

Citations: Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.40
Wyoming Yes. Applicants must show that at least 50% of teacher in the school and of parents of students attending the school support the conversion.

Citations: Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 21-3-306


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