Proposed Amendments to Part 650 (Charter Schools)

This rulemaking continues implementation of several provisions enacted by P.A. 97-152, effective July 20, 2011, which substantially amended Article 27A of the School Code (the Charter Schools Law).  Additionally, changes are being proposed in Section 650.30 to identify the materials that a charter school authorizer must submit to the State Board in its report on any action with respect to an application for a new charter school or any application for renewal or revision of its approved charter.

The proposed changes in new Sections 650.55 and 650.65 address two provisions contained in Section 27A-12 of the School Code:  biennial reporting to the State Board by authorizers of charter schools and ongoing monitoring of charter school authorizers by the agency to ensure compliance with laws and rules governing charter schools.  The proposed changes further set forth the procedures that the State Board will use to sanction charter school authorizers or charter schools that are chronically underperforming. 

Section 27A-12 of the School Code requires the State Board to publish a report about charter schools in January of every even-numbered year.  To compile this report, the State Board must collect certain data from charter school authorizers by no later than September 30 of every odd-numbered year. 

New Section 650.55 lists the information and data that all charter school authorizers must include in their reports.  The information and data to be reported generally address a charter school authorizer's strategic vision for chartering and progress toward achieving that vision; the status of each charter school in the authorizer's portfolio; and the authorizing functions provided by the authorizer to the charter schools under its purview, including its operating costs and expenses.  Section 650.55 also sets parameters for the agency’s collection of this information and data, including submission requirements and timelines.  Agency staff will use this information and data to produce its biennial report, which also must include:

  1. a comparison of the academic performance of charter school students to the performance of their peers in traditional public schools;
  2. an analysis of whether exemptions that charter schools enjoy from certain laws and regulations assisted or impeded the ability of the charter schools to better meet their stated goals and objectives; and
  3. recommendations for any changes to the Charter Schools Law necessary to "strengthen charter schools".

As further set forth in Section 27A-12 of the School Code, the State Board is authorized to remove a charter school authorizer's power to establish charter schools or oversee existing charter schools in those situations when the authorizer "does not demonstrate a commitment to high-quality authorization practices".  The State Board also may, "if necessary, revoke the chronically low-performing charters authorized by the authorizer at the time of the removal".  New Section 650.65 specifies the grounds upon which the State Board may remove an authorizer's authorizing power, based on information the agency receives from an authorizer's biennial reports, as well as complaints submitted to the agency and other ongoing monitoring efforts.  The proposed amendments also establish a process for the State Board to follow if it chooses to remove an authorizer’s power to authorize charter schools and address the process to be taken to determine the status of any charter schools established by an authorizer whose authorizing powers have been removed. 

Proposed modifications in Section 650.30 place into rule specific mention of the format that authorizers must use when submitting to the State Board reports of approved charter school applications and reports related to renewal of approved charters or revisions to those charters made after approval is granted.  The proposed changes do not place new requirements on charter school authorizers, as authorizers have been required to use certain forms for these processes for some time.  Rather, the agency has an obligation to state all of its policies in administrative rules.  The changes in Section 650.30 will correct the rule’s oversight in not listing the complete requirements that apply to these reports.

In accordance with a long-standing policy of the State Board, agency staff shared the proposed amendments with charter school authorizers currently operating in the state (i.e., school districts with at least one charter school and the State Charter School Commission) to solicit their preliminary feedback before the proposal was brought to the Board for its initial review. 

Initial Review by State Board of Education: May 2014

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