Charter Schools - State Profile

Charter Schools - State Profile - Indiana

January 2016


Charter School Basics
Does the state have a charter school law? Yes. Charter terms are 3 to 7 years.
Does the state allow existing public schools to convert to charter schools? Yes
Does the state specify the charter schools or the students that may be given preference? Yes. Charter schools must admit or give equal chances for admittance to any elgible Indiana student who applies. However, a charter school may limit new admissions to allow current students and their siblings to attend the charter school or another charter school run by the same charter operator in subsequent years. During the school year in which an existing school converts to a charter school, the charter school may limit admission to those students who were enrolled in the charter school on the date of the conversion and to their siblings. In addition, charter schools must allow preschool students who attend a Level 3 or Level 4 Paths to QUALITY program preschool to attend kindergarten at the charter school if the charter school and the preschool provider have entered into an agreement to share services or facilities. Finally, a charter school may give enrollment preference to children of the charter school's founders, governing body members and charter school employees, as long as the enrollment preference is not given to more than 10 percent of the school's total population.
 
Does the state have any caps on the number of charter schools? No
Who Can Authorize Charter Schools?
Does the state specify who may apply to open a charter school? Yes. A group or entity that has not-for-profit status or has applied for it may apply to open a charter school.
To whom can charter applicants apply? Applicants may apply to authorizers, which includes:
  • Local school boards
  • Public universities that offer a 4-year baccalaureate degree
  • The mayor of Indianapolis (through the Indianapolis charter school board)
  • The Indiana charter school board
  • A nonprofit postsecondary institution that offers 4-year baccalaureate degrees or advanced degrees.
Charter authorizers must apply to the state board of education for registration as an authorizer. A local school board may register for charter authority within its attendance area. A governing board of a nonprofit college or university may applyfor statewide, regional or local chartering authority. Within 30 days of the state board's decision to grant authorizing authority, it must execute a renewable authorizing contract for an initial term of 6 years. The authorizing contract must specify the approved applicant's agreement to serve as a charter authorizer in accordance with state law and must specify additional performance terms based on the applicant's proposal and plan for chartering.
Is there a statewide authorizing body? Yes. The Indiana charter school board may authorize charter schools statewide.
Is there an appeals process for charter applicants? Yes. Applicants may appeal a rejected proposal to the state charter school review panel, which may either reject, approve, conditionally approve, or recommend changes to the proposal. Decisions by the state charter school review panel are final.
Does the state provide technical assistance to charter schools? No
Accountability for Schools and Authorizers
Does the state require charter schools to submit annual reports? Yes. Charter school organizers must prepare an annual report and include the information required in authorizer annual reports. Charter schools must also must provide other specified information to the charter authorizer. Finally, the organizer must publish an annual performance report that provides the information required under state law in the same manner that a school district publishes an annual report.
Does the state specify grounds for terminating or not renewing a school’s charter? Yes. An authorizer may revoke the charter at any time before the expiration of the term of the charter if, after the authorizer has notified the school and given reasonable time to correct the issue, the authorizer determines that at least one of the following has occurred:
  • Failure to comply with the conditions or procedures established in the charter
  • Failure to meet the educational goals set forth in the charter
  • Failure to comply with all applicable laws
  • Failure to meet generally accepted fiscal management and government accounting principles
  • One or more grounds for revocation exist as specified in the charter
Does the state provide an appeals process in the charter school renewal process? No
Has the state established standards for quality school authorizing that authorizers must meet? Yes
Does the state set a threshold beneath which a school must automatically be closed (where the authorizer must close it)? Yes. A charter school that remains in the lowest category or designation of school improvement, including any alternative accountability category or designation, for three years must be closed.
 
Does the state require the authorizer to report on the performance of their portfolio of schools? Yes. Authorizers must submit charter school annual reports to the department of education for informational and research purposes. The state board is also required to annually report to the legislative council regarding the receipt, acceptance and rejection of charter school proposals, including the reasons for rejection.
Are there sanctions in place for authorizers? Yes
Charter School Autonomy
Are the state’s standards and assessments applied to charter schools? Yes
What rules are waived for charter schools? Charter schools are exempt from the following:
  • Any state statute applicable to a governing body or school district
  • A rule or guideline adopted by the state board of education
  • A rule or guideline adopted by the professional standards board (except for those rules that assist a teacher in gaining or renewing a standard or advanced license)
  • A local regulation or policy adopted by a school district unless specifically incorporated in the charter.

Charter schools must follow laws and rules governing the following:

  • Audits by the state board of accounts
  • Accounting
  • Special education
  • Criminal history
  • Regulation by state agencies
  • Nondiscrimination for teachers' marital status
  • Teacher freedom of association
  • School counselor immunity
  • Compulsory school attendance
  • Limitations on employment of children
  • Student due process and judicial review
  • Firearms and deadly weapons
  • Health and safety measures
  • Reporting of student violations of law
  • Patriotic commemorative observances
  • Standards, accreditation, assessment programs and remediation
  • Parental access to education records
  • Accountability for school performance and improvement
  • Personal financial responsibility instruction

Conversion charter schools must also follow teacher and administrator employment rules and regulations.

Charter School Finance
Through whom does a charter school receive its funding? The state
How is the funding for a charter school determined? Charter schools receive the same state and federal funding as traditional public schools. Authorizers can withhold up to 3% for administrative fees.
Does the state provide start-up and/or planning grants to charter schools? Yes. Subject to funding availability, charter schools can apply to the Charter School Facilities Assistance Fund for grants or loans to pay the first semester costs for new charter schools.
Does the state provide direct facilities funding to charter schools? Yes. Through the Charter and Innovation Network School Grant and Advance programs, charter schools that meet performance expectations receive a $500 per-pupil allocation for facilities and transportation and have access to low-interest state loans. Subject to funding availability, charter schools can apply to the Charter School Facilities Assistance Fund for grants or loans for constructing, purchasing, renovating or maintaining charter schools.

Does the state provide other facilities assistance to charter schools? Charter schools have access to bond financing through the Indiana Finance Authority and other authorized bond banks. In addition, the state department of education is required to publish on its website a list of closed, unused or unoccupied school buildings that were previously used for classroom instruction. A charter school must submit an intent to claim if it is interested in leasing or purchasing one of the facilities on the list. The school corporation that owns the facility can then lease it to the charter school for $1 per year or sell it to the charter school for $1.
Does the state specify who must provide transportation to charter school students? No. However, a charter school proposal must include a transportation plan. Also, if a school district provides transportation services to a charter school, it must be provided at not more than 103% of the actual cost of the services.
Charter School Teachers
Do teachers in a charter school have to be certified? At least 90% or more of full-time teachers in a charter school must either be certified or be in the process of obtaining a license to teach through the transition to teaching program. For those teachers in the transition to teaching program, licenses must be obtained within 3 years of beginning to teach at a charter school. Charter schools may request a lower percentage from the state board of education.
What sets teacher salaries? The charter school
Does the state require school districts to grant teachers a leave of absence to teach in a charter school? No
Are charter schools bound by school district collective bargaining agreements? No. However, charter school employees may organize as a collective bargaining unit.
Do teachers in each of a state’s charter schools have equal access to the public school teachers’ retirement system? Yes
Cyber or Virtual Charters
Does state law explicitly define or permit cyber/virtual charter schools? Yes. Virtual charter schools are allowed if they follow the department of education's procedures governing online and computer instruction.
Is there additional oversight specific to cyber/virtual charter schools? No

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