Charter Schools: State Profile

Charter Schools: State Profile - Oklahoma

January 2018


Charter School Basics 2017
Does the state have a charter school law? Yes. Terms for charter schools may not exceed 5 years, although sponsors may vary the length of the term based on performance and other specific circumstances. 

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-130 et al., Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-137

Does the state allow existing public schools to convert to charter schools? 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

Does the state have any caps on the number of charter schools? Yes. In counties with a population of less than 500,000, the state board of education may sponsor up to 5 charter schools per year and no more than one charter school in a single district per year. In addition, charter schools sponsored by a school district must be located in the geographic boundaries of the sponsoring district. Technology center school districts and higher education institutions, including community colleges, may only sponsor charter schools if the charter school is located in a school district with a population of 500,000 or more.

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-132, Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-134

Does the state specify who may apply to open a charter school? Yes. A local school board, public body, public or private college or university, a private person, or a private organization can apply to open a charter school; private schools may not.

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-134

Does the state specify the types of charter schools that may be given approval preference? Yes. All authorizers but school districts must give priority to opening charter schools that serve at-risk student populations or students from low-performing schools. In addition, all authorizers - except for school districts - must give priority to charter school applicants with a demonstrated record of operating at least one school or similar program with academic success and organizational viability and that serves student populations similar to those the proposed charter seeks to serve.

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, §3-132

Does the state specify the students who may be given enrollment preference? Yes. Charter schools must give preference to students residing in the district where the charter school is located and eligible students who attend a school in the district designated as "in need of improvement." (This does not apply to schools authorized by the state board of education.) If applications exceed school capacity, the school must hold an enrollment lottery.

A charter school may also designate a specific geographic area within the school district in which the charter school is located as an academic enterprise zone and may limit admissions to students who reside within that area. An academic enterprise zone is a geographic area in which 60% or more of the children who reside in the area qualify for the free or reduced school lunch program.

A charter school must enroll students who live in the attendance area of a school or in a school district that is under a court desegregation order or party to an agreement with the Office for Civil Rights unless it would violate the resident district's court order or agreement. (This does not apply to schools authorized by the state board of education.)

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-140

Does the state specify who must provide transportation to charter school students? Yes. Charter schools are responsible for providing transportation, but only within the transportation boundaries of the school district where it is located.

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-141

Charter School Authorizing 2017
What organizations may authorize charter schools, and is there a statewide authorizing body? The following organizations may authorize charter schools: 
  • Local school districts.
  • A technology center school district.
  • Higher education institutions. 
  • Community colleges.
  • Federally-recognized Indian tribes (in specific locations and circumstances).
  • The state board of education upon appeal follow denial from a local school district. The state board may also sponsor charter schools for the office of juvenile affairs for charter schools in low-performing group homes serving youth in the custody or supervision of the state.
  • A regional institution with a teacher education program that is a member of Oklahoma's higher education system may sponsor charter schools in a district or school site identified as in need of improvement.
  • The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board authorizes all virtual charter schools. 

Both the state board of education and the statewide virtual charter school board serve as statewide authorizing bodies, but only in specific circumstances.

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-132; Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-134; Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 145.1

Is there an appeals process for charter applicants? Yes. If an authorizer denies an application, the applicant may submit a revised application for reconsideration. If the potential authorizer rejects the revised application, the applicant may appeal to the state board of education or proceed to mediation and/or binding arbitration. Applicants to school districts may not proceed to arbitration but may appeal to and potentially be authorized by the state board of education.

A decision by the state virtual charter school board may be appealed to the state board. The state board may reverse the decision or remand the matter back to the state virtual charter school board for further proceeding.

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-134; Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-145.3

Has the state established standards for quality school authorizing that authorizers must meet? Yes. Authorizers must develop and maintain chartering policies and practices consistent with recognized principles and standards for quality charter authorizing as established by the department of education.

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-134

Does the state require the authorizer to report on the performance of its portfolio of schools? No. However, the state board of education must issue an annual report to the legislature and governor outlining the status of charter schools in the state, and each charter school must annually file a report with the office of accountability providing various performance data. 

Authorizers must monitor the performance and legal compliance of their charter schools. In addition, before a charter school's fourth year of operation the sponsor must provide each charter school with a school performance report and charter renewal application guidance, including notice of any weakness or concerns identified by the sponsor that may jeopardize the school's renewal.

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-143; Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-137; Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-134

Are there sanctions in place for authorizers? Yes. If the state board of education has closed or transferred authorization of at least 25%of one authorizer's charter schools, the board may suspend that authorizer's authority to open new schools. In addition, if an authorizer fails to close a low-performing charter school under certain conditions, the authorizer must appear before the state board of education to support their decision. The state board may decide to uphold or overturn the authorizer's decision. 

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-137

Charter School Autonomy and Accountability 2017
What rules are waived for charter schools? Except as provided for in the state's charter school law and a charter school's charter, a charter school is exempt from all statutes and rules relating to schools, boards of education and school districts. There also are a limited amount of waivers available to charter schools. Charter schools are subject to laws and regulations pertaining to:
  • Reporting requirements and financial audits as required by school districts
  • Federal and state laws related to children with disabilities
  • Health and safety
  • Civil rights
  • Insurance
  • Length of instructional year/days
  • Suspensions

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-136

Does the state specify grounds for terminating or not renewing a school’s charter? Yes. A charter school authorizer may deny a request for renewal if it determines the charter school has failed to complete the obligations of the contract or comply with the provisions of the state's charter schools law. A charter school authorizer may terminate a contract during the term of the contract for failing to meet student performance requirements in the contract, failing to meet the standards of fiscal management, violations of the law, or other good cause. When making decisions about charter nonrenewal or termination, authorizers must consider the percentage of at-risk students enrolled in the school. 
 
An authorizer may close a charter school with performance levels in the bottom 5% of all public schools. If a sponsor decides not to close a school in the bottom 5%, the sponsor must appear before the state board of education and give support for that decision and the state board will uphold or overturn the decision. A charter school closed for being in the bottom 5% may not be granted a charter by another sponsor. When making decisions about closing a school in the bottom 5%, the state board must consider all of the following:
  • Enrollment of students with special challenges, like substance addiction or prior incarceration.
  • High student mobility related to the specific purpose of the charter school.
  • Improvement in student performance from preceding school year.
  • If the majority of students attending the charter school would likely revert to public schools with lower academic achievement levels.

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-137

Does the state set a threshold beneath which a charter school must automatically be closed? Yes. Authorizers must not renew charter schools with performance levels in the bottom 5% of public schools or appear before the state board of education to justify its reason for renewing the charter school. The state board will uphold or overturn the decision. In deciding whether or not to keep the school open the state board must consider mitigating factors, such as enrollment of students with special challenges, or high student mobility related to the specific purpose of the charter school.

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-137

Charter School Finance 2017
How is the funding for a charter school determined? Charter schools receive the state aid allocation and any other state-appropriated revenue generated for their students according to the same state aid funding formula as traditional public schools. Authorizers can deduct up to 5% administrative fees from the school’s state aid allocation. Charter schools are eligible to receive any other aid, grants or revenues allowed to traditional public schools. The governing body of a charter school cannot levy taxes or issue bonds.

Citations: Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 70, § 3-142

Who provides charter schools with their funding? For charter schools authorized by their local school district, the school district. For all others, the state.

Citations: Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 70, § 3-142

Does the state provide start-up or planning grants to new charter schools? Yes. The Charter Schools Incentive Fund provides funding to charter school for start-up costs. The state department of education allocates per-pupil funds to match funds allocated through the federal State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grants Program.

Citations: Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 70, § 3-144

What kind of facilities funding is available to charter schools? Direct funding:
The Charter School Incentive Fund provides support for costs associated with renovating or remodeling existing buildings and structures for use by a charter school. The department of education allocates per-pupil funds to match funds allocated through the federal State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grants Program. In addition, the Common School Building Equalization Fund provides aid for acquiring buildings. To qualify, charter schools have to provide matching funds of not less than 10% of the total grant. The maximum grant award is $4 million.

Other funding:
Charter schools are eligible for tax-exempt financing through the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority.

Citations: Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 70, § 3-144; Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 70 § 3-104; Okla. Stat. Ann. tit 74 § 5062.1

Charter School Teachers 2017
Do teachers in a charter school have to be certified? No. However, the charter and the charter school's contract with the sponsoring school district must include provisions about teacher and personnel certifications and qualifications. 

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-135; Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-136

What sets teacher salaries? A charter school must have a contract with the sponsoring school district before entering into employment contracts with teachers and other personnel, and the contract with the school district must establish salaries. 

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-135

Does the state require school districts to grant teachers a leave of absence to teach in a charter school? No. The sponsoring school district decides if a teacher loses salary status or other benefits. However, if a teacher seeks reemployment at the school district where the teacher worked prior to the charter school no later than 3 years after leaving a district school, the teacher is to receive employment preference.

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-139

Do teachers in a state’s charter schools have equal access to the public school teachers’ retirement system? Yes

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-136

Virtual Charter Schools 2017
Does state law explicitly allow virtual charter schools? Yes

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-145.1; Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-145.3

Is there a statewide authorizer specific for virtual charter schools? Yes. The state board for virtual charter schools is required to provide oversight of operations of statewide virtual charters and to establish processes for accepting and approving applications and revoking contracts.

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-145.3

Does the state set enrollment limits for virtual charter schools? No. However, no school district may offer full-time virtual education to students who are not residents of the district or enter into a contract with a provider to such students. School districts and providers that offer full-time virtual education to students outside of their resident school district are subject to additional oversight.

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-145.5; Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-145.6

Is there additional oversight specific to virtual charter schools? Yes. Virtual schools must keep full and complete records of attendance of all students enrolled in the school, and virtual schools must have an attendance policy by July 1, 2018. 

Citations: Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 3-145.8


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