Charter Schools: Who may apply to open a charter school?

Charter Schools: Who may apply to open a charter school?

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.
 

Who may apply to open a charter school?
Alabama Any nonprofit group that has received or applied for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status may apply to open a charter school. No private or nonpublic school may apply.

Citations: Ala. Code § 16-6F-4; Ala. Code § 16-6F-2
Alaska Not specified in state law.
Arizona Any public body, private person or private organization may apply to open a charter school. However, the applicant is required to submit fingerprints and the proposed sponsor determines whether the applicant is qualified to operate a charter.

Citations: Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-183
Arkansas The following entities may apply to start open-enrollment public charter schools:
  • A public institution of higher education.
  • A private non sectarian institution of higher education.
  • A governmental entity.
  • Any tax-exempt non-sectarian organization.


Any public school district may apply to open a conversion charter school.

Citations: Ark. Code Ann. § 6-23-103; Ark. Code Ann. § 6-23-201
California Applications are by petition circulated by on or more persons. The petition is required to be signed by a number of parents of pupils equivalent to at least one-half of the number of pupils that the charter school estimates will enroll in the school for its first year of operation. Similarly, the petition is signed by a number of teachers that is equivalent to at least one-half of the number of teachers that the charter school estimates will be employed at the school during its first year of operation. Completed petitions are submitted to a governing board.

Petitioners that submit charter petitions, or charter schools that submit charter renewal or material revision applications may not operate as, or be operated by, a for-profit corporation, for-profit education management organization, or for-profit charter management organization.

Citations: Cal. Educ. Code § 47605; Cal. Educ. Code § 47604
Colorado The following may apply to open a charter school:
  • an individual,
  • a group of individuals,
  • a nonprofit or for-profit company,
  • an existing public school,
  • a school district, or
  • an institution of higher education.


Note: State law notes that the above are included in the definiton of applicant, but the definition is not limited to such entities.

Citations: Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 22-30.5-302
Connecticut The following may apply to the Commissioner of Education to obtain an initial certificate of approval for a charter:
  • any not-for-profit organization with tax-exempt status,
  • a public or independent institution of higher education,
  • a local or regional board of education,
  • 2 or more boards of education cooperatively, or
  • a regional educational service center.


Citations: Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 10-66bb
Delaware The following may apply to open a charter school:
  • a person,
  • a university or college,
  • a non-religious, non-home-based, nonsectarian entity.
In addition, a "highly successful charter school operator" may apply to open a school. Charter applicants must be experienced and qualified to start and open a charter school and implement the school's proposed educational program. Certified teachers, parents, and members of the community in which the school is to be located must be involved in developing the proposed school. When the school starts, the governing board must include a teacher from at least one of the charter schools operated by the board and at least one parent of student enrolled in a charter school operated by the board.

Citations: Del. Code Ann. tit. 14, § 502; Del. Code Ann. tit. 14, § 511; Del. Code Ann. tit. 14, § 512
District of Columbia An “eligible applicant” means a person, including a private, public, or quasi-public entity, or an institution of higher education.

Citations: D.C. Code § 38-1800.02
Florida For new schools, an application may be made by individuals, teachers, parents, a group of individuals, a municipality or a legal entity organized under the laws of the state. In addition, a Florida College System institution may work with the school district or school districts in its designated service area to develop charter schools that offer secondary education. These charter schools are required to include an option for students to receive an associate degree upon high school graduation.

For conversion schools, an application may be made by the district school board, the principal, teachers, parents, and/or the school advisory council at an existing public school that has been in operation for at least 2 years prior to the application to convert, including a public school within-a-school that is designated as a school by the district school board.

A charter school-in-the-workplace may be established when a business partner provides the school facility to be used, enrolls students based upon a random lottery that involves all of the children of employees of that business or corporation who are seeking enrollment, and enrolls students according to the racial/ethnic balance provisions.

A charter school-in-a-municipality designation may be granted to a municipality that possesses a charter, enrolls students based upon a random lottery that involves all of the children of the residents of that municipality who are seeking enrollment, and enrolls students according to the racial/ethnic balance provisions. When a municipality has submitted charter applications for the establishment of a charter school feeder pattern, consisting of elementary, middle and senior high schools, and each individual charter application is approved by the district school board, the schools are designated as one charter school.

Citations: Fla. Stat. Ann. § 1002.33
Georgia The following may apply to open a charter school:
  • a local school,
  • a local board of education,
  • a private individual
  • a private organization, or
  • a state or local public entity.

Since July 1, 2013, an approved charter for a local charter school is considered a three-party agreement between a charter petitioner, a local board, and the state board, and the charter petitioner for such local charter school may only be a party other than the local board.

Home study programs, home study schools, sectarian schools, religious schools, private for-profit schools, private educational institutions not established, operated or governed by the state, and existing private schools may not submit or initiate a petition for a charter.

Citations: Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2062
Hawaii The following may submit a letter of intent to an authorizer to form a charter school and establish an applicant governing board:
  • a community school,
  • a department school,
  • a school community council,
  • a group of teachers,
  • a group of teachers and administrators, or
  • a nonprofit organization.
Some restrictions apply:
  • A community board may apply for a start-up (new) school.
  • A department or school council may develop an application for a conversion school.


Citations: Haw. Rev. Stat. § 302D-13
Idaho Any group of persons may apply to open a charter school after creating a nonprofit organization.

Citations: Idaho Code Ann. § 33-5205
Illinois The following may apply to open a charter school:
  • Individuals or organizations that will have majority representation on the board of directors or other governing body of the corporation or other legal entity that is to be established to operate the proposed charter school.
  • A board of education or an intergovernmental agreement between or among boards of education.
  • The board of directors or other governing body of a discrete legal entity already existing or established to operate the proposed charter school.

The individuals or organizations may be school teachers, school administrators, local school councils, colleges or universities or their faculty members (including community colleges), corporations, or other entities or their representatives.

Also, a local school board must, whenever petitioned to do so by 5% or more of the voters of a school district or districts identified in a charter school proposal, order submitted to the voters at a regularly scheduled election the question of whether a new charter school should be established. If the majority of voters approve the referendum, the state board of education certifies that the proposal complies with all requirements and is required to become the chartering entity with the charter school. The state board of education is the chartering entity for charter schools established by referendum.

Citations: 105 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/27A-6.5; 105 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/27A-7; 105 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/27A-8
Indiana An organizer is defined as an entity that:
  • Is a nonprofit corporation that is incorporated or registered in Indiana
  • Has been recognized by the Internal Revenue Service to be tax exempt and maintains such tax exempt status
  • Has an independent board whose members have been elected or selected under the organizer's application and that has entered into a contract to operate a charter school.


Citations: Ind. Code Ann. § 20-24-1-7
Iowa A principal, group of parents or teachers of students at an existing public school may apply to open a charter school.

State law does not specify if charter school applicants must have nonprofit status or not.

Citations: Iowa Code Ann. § 256F.3
Kansas The following may apply to open a charter school:
  • a school building or school district employee group,
  • an educational services contractor, or
  • any other person or entity.


State law does not specify if charter school applicants must have nonprofit status or not.

Citations: Kan. Stat. Ann. § 72-1906 Kan. Stat. Ann. § 72-4206
Kentucky The following, or any combination of the following, may apply to open a charter school:
  • teachers,
  • parents,
  • school administrators,
  • community residents,
  • public organizations, or
  • nonprofit organizations.


Citations: Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 160.1593
Louisiana Any of the following may form a nonprofit, as long as it includes 3 or more persons holding a Louisiana teaching license:
  • A group of 3 or more teachers.
  • 10 or more citizens.
  • A public service organization.
  • A business.
  • A Louisiana college or university, licensed by the Board of Regents.
  • The faculty and staff of any city or parish public school or any local school board.
  • The state department of education (subject to state board approval).


In addition, low-performing schools that are transferred to the recovery school district and converted to charter schools must be operated by a person or entity with at least 5 years of significant experience operating or working for or with a person who operates a public, private, or charter school, a public or private postsecondary institution, a for-profit business or a not-for-profit entity which provides academic instruction to students.

Citations: La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 17:3983
Maine Any nonprofit, non religious organization may apply to open a start-up charter school.

Citations: Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. 20-A § 2407
Maryland The following, or any combination of the following, may apply to open a charter school:
  • the staff of a public school,
  • a parent or guardian of a student who attends a public school in the county,
  • a nonsectarian nonprofit entity, or
  • a nonsectarian institution of higher education.


Citations: Md. Code Ann., Educ. § 9-104
Massachusetts Applicants may include but are not limited to a non-profit business or corporate entity, 2 or more certified teachers, or 10 or more parents. Applications may be filed in conjunction with a college, university, museum or other similar non-profit entity. For-profit businesses or corporate entities may not apply for a charter.

Citations: Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 71 § 89
Michigan One or more persons or an entity may apply for a charter.

Entity is defined as a partnership, nonprofit or business corporation, labor organization, or any other association, corporation, trust, or other legal entity.

Citations: Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 380.502; Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 380.501
Minnesota Charter school developers apply to start a charter school, and the school must be organized as a nonprofit corporation. After receiving a developer's application, an authorizer may charter a licensed teacher or a group with 1 or more licensed teachers to operate the school. A school district may create a corporation to establish a charter school.

Citations: Minn. Stat. Ann. § 124E.06
Mississippi Any person or group may apply, but the organization operating the charter school and any education service provider providing management services must be nonprofit education organizations.

Citations: Miss. Code Ann. § 37-28-5, § 37-28-39
Missouri A person, group or organization may apply to establish a charter school.

Charter schools will be organized as Missouri nonprofit corporations.

Citations: Mo. Ann. Stat. § 160.405; Mo. Ann. Stat. § 160.400
Nevada Applicants must form a committee to form a charter school, which must consist of the following membership, the majority of whom must reside in the state at the time of application:
  • A licensed or formerly licensed teacher or administrator.
  • A second licensed teacher or a school administrator licensed in another state.
  • A parent who is not employed with the proposed charter school.
  • 2 members with knowledge in accounting, financial services, law, or human resources.
  • The committee may include up to 4 additional members: from the general public, representing nonprofit organization or businesses, or representing higher education institutions.


Charter schools are prohibited from acting as for-profit entities, but may be incorporated as a nonprofit corporation.

Citations: Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 388A.240; Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. 388A.095
New Hampshire For submissions made to the state board, eligible entities include:
  • A nonprofit organization including, but not limited to, a college, university, museum, service club, or similar entity.
  • A group of 2 or more New Hampshire certified teachers.
  • A group of 10 or more parents.


Citations: N.H. Rev. Stat. § 194-B:3
New Jersey The following entities may apply to open a charter school:
  • Teaching staff members
  • Parents with children attending the schools of the district
  • A combination of teaching staff and parents.
  • Institution of higher education
  • Private entity located within the state in conjunction with teaching staff and parents of children attending the schools of the district.


State law does not specify if charter school applicants must have nonprofit status or not.

Citations: N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:36A-4
New Mexico The following entities may apply to open a charter school:
  • Teacher
  • Parents
  • Community members
  • Public postsecondary educational institution
  • Nonprofit organization.

Municipalities, counties, private post-secondary educational institutions and for-profit business entities may not apply for or receive a charter.

Charter School Districts: Local school boards must apply to the department of education to become a charter school district. At least 65% of school district employees must sign a petition of support, the local school board must adopt a resolution approving the conversion, and the the local school board must hold at least 2 public hearings on the matter.

Citations: N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-8B-6, N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-8E-3
New York The following entities may apply to open a charter school:
  • Teachers
  • Parents
  • School administrators
  • Community residents
  • Any combination thereof


A charter application may be filed in conjunction with a college, university, museum, educational institution, or a non-profit entity. For-profit entities may apply to open a charter school in most cases, but for-profit entities may not operate or manage charters or charter schools issued under a request for proposal from the State University of New York

Citations: N.Y. Educ. Law § 2851, N.Y. Educ. Law § 2852
North Carolina A non-profit corporation may apply to open a charter school.

Citations: N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 115C-218.1
Ohio Any person or group of individuals may apply to the department of education to open a new or conversion charter school. New charter schools may only be opened in a "challenged school district," meaning districts that meet certain criteria, such as low performance. Non-profit organizations are permitted to apply to open a new charter school in a challenged school district, provided they have been in operation as a tax-exempt organization for at least five years, have a record of financial responsibility, and is an education-oriented entity with a history of implementing education programs successfully.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.01, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.02, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.029
Oklahoma The following entities may apply to open a charter school:
  • Local school board
  • Public body
  • Public or private college or university
  • Private person
  • Private organization


Private schools may not apply to open a charter school. State law does not specify if charter school applicants must have nonprofit status or not.

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-134
Oregon Any person or group that develops and submits a written proposal for a public charter school to a sponsor.

Citations: Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 338.005
Pennsylvania The following may apply to open a charter school:
  • Individuals
  • 1 or more teachers planning to teach at the proposed charter school
  • Parents or guardians of students planning to attend the charter school
  • Any nonsectarian college, university or museum located in the state
  • Any nonsectarian not-for-profit corporation; any corporation, association or partnership
  • Any combination thereof may apply.


Citations: 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 17-1717-A; 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 17-1718-A
Rhode Island For a district charter school:
  • Existing public schools
  • Groups of public school personnel
  • Public school districts
  • A group of school districts.
For an independent charter school:
  • Rhode Island nonprofit organizations that have existed for at least 2 years and must exist for a substantial reason other than to operate a school.
  • Colleges or universities within the state.


A mayoral academy may be created by a mayor of any city or town within the state, acting by or through a nonprofit organization created for the purpose.

Citations: R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. § 16-77.2-1; R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. § 16-77.3-1; R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. § 16-77.4-1
South Carolina The following entities may apply to open a charter school:
  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • Community members
  • Non-profit organizations


Applicants must form a charter committee that includes 1 or more teachers. Charter schools must maintain nonprofit status.

Citations: S.C. Code Ann. § 59-40-30, S.C. Code Ann. § 59-40-40; S.C. Code Ann. § 59-40-60
Tennessee A proposed governing body may serve as the sponsor for a charter school application. Local Education Agencies are eligible to serve as sponsors. Sponsors may not be for-profit entities, nonpublic schools, private, religious or church schools, or a postsecondary institution that is not regionally accredited. Sponsors may not promote an agenda of any religious denomination or entity.

Citations: Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-13-104; Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-13-141
Texas Those eligible to open charter schools vary by the type of charter school:
  • Campus charter schools: parents and teachers.
  • Open-enrollment charter schools: public or private institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations or governmental entities.
  • Home-rule district charter: adopted and run by the school district.
  • University or junior college charter schools: a public university or junior college to operate a charter school on its campus.


Citations: Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § Sec. 12.052; Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 12.101; Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 12.152; Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 12.011
Utah An individual or group of individuals or a not-for-profit organization may apply to open a charter school. An authorized charter school may apply for a charter from another authorizer.

Citations: U.C.A. 1953 § 53G-5-302
Virginia Any person, group, or organization, including any institution of higher education may apply to open a charter school. 2 or more school boards, with consent from the state board of education, may establish a regional charter school. State law does not specify if charter school applicants must have nonprofit status or not.

Citations: Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-212.8; Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-26
Washington Any non-religious, nonprofit organization may apply to start a charter school.

Citations: Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.710.010
West Virginia The following entities may apply to open a charter school if they obtain 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, or have submitted an application to obtain that status:
  • Parents
  • Community members
  • Teachers
  • School administrators
  • State institutions of higher education


Citations: W. Va. Code, § 18-5G-2
Wisconsin Not specified in state law.

Citations: Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.40
Wyoming Any person may apply to open a charter school. The following people may apply to convert an existing public school to a charter school:
  • Administrators
  • Teachers
  • Parents
  • Advisory group of district residents


State law does not specify if charter school applicants must have nonprofit status or not.

Citations: Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 21-3-306


© 2020 by the Education Commission of the States (ECS). All rights reserved. ECS is the only nationwide, nonpartisan interstate compact devoted to education. 700 Broadway #810, Denver, CO 80203-3442

To request permission to excerpt part of this publication, either in print or electronically, please contact the Education Commission of the States’ Communications Department at 303.299.3636 or mzatynski@ecs.org.

Your Education Policy Team  www.ecs.org