§ 501 Legislative intent.
The purpose of this chapter is to create an alternative to traditional public schools operated by school districts and improve public education overall by establishing a system of independent "charter" schools throughout the State.
To that end, this chapter offers members of the community a charter to organize and run independent public schools, free of most state and school district rules and regulations governing public education, as long as they meet the requirements of this chapter, and particularly the obligation to meet measurable standards of student performance. Schools established under this chapter shall be known as "charter schools."
This chapter is intended to improve student learning; encourage the use of different and innovative or proven school environments and teaching and learning methods; provide parents and students with measures of improved school and student performance and greater opportunities in choosing public schools within and outside their school districts; and to provide for a well-educated community.
There shall be no limit to the number of charter schools that may be established in the State; provided, however, that no more than 5 such schools may be established to operate in the 1996-1997 school year, and that no more than 5 additional charter schools may be established to operate in the 1997-1998 school year, and that no more than 5 additional charter schools may be established to operate in the 1998-1999 school years. If for any school year more charters are awarded than are permitted to operate by this section, the Department of Education shall hold a lottery to decide which charters are permitted to operate in such school year and charter applicants who lose such lottery shall be given a right of refusal for a charter for the subsequent school year.
§ 502 Potential charter organizers.
This legislation is intended to encourage any person, university, college, or nonreligious, non-home-based, nonsectarian entity that can meet the requirements of this chapter to form a charter school. No private or religiously affiliated school may apply to become a charter school.
§ 503 Legal status.
A charter school is a public school including 2 or more of grade kindergarten through 12 managed by a board of directors, which operates independently of any school board, under a charter granted for an initial period of 4 school years of operation and renewable every 5 school years thereafter by a public school district or the State Department of Education (hereinafter in this chapter, "Department") with the approval of the State Board of Education (hereinafter in this chapter, "State Board"), pursuant to this chapter. For purposes of this chapter as it relates to the management of a charter school, the board of directors of a charter school shall be a public body subject to the requirements of Chapter 100 of Title 29 and shall have the same standing and authority as a Reorganized School District Board of Education, except the power to tax.
§ 504 Corporate status.
(a) A charter school shall be organized and managed under the Delaware General Corporation Law.
(b) The board of directors of a charter school shall be deemed public agents authorized by a public school district or the Department with the approval of the State Board to control the charter school. No person shall serve as a member of a charter school board of directors who is an elected member of a local school board of education.
(c) A charter school shall be considered a public school for all purposes.
(d) A charter school may sue or be sued to the same extent and on the same conditions as a public school district, and its employees, directors and officers shall enjoy the same immunities as employees, directors and officers of public school districts and other public schools. The approving authority of a charter school shall have no liability for the actions or inaction of a charter school.
§ 504A Powers.
Consistent with its charter and the provisions of its certificate of incorporation, bylaws or membership agreements, the board of directors of a charter school or schools shall, as to each charter that the board holds, have the power to:
(1) Manage the implementation of its approved education program;
(2) Determine its own budget and operating procedures;
(3) Acquire and convey interests in real property, subject to rules and regulations established by the Department with the approval of the State Board with respect to real property acquired by charter schools using state funds;
(4) Incur debt;
(5) Accept gifts;
(6) Contract with any school district, or any other public school or private nonsectarian, nonreligious entity also empowered to enter into contracts, for any and all real property, equipment, goods, supplies and services; provided, that a school district must make unused buildings or space (defined as space no longer needed, permanently or temporarily, for non-charter school purposes) buildings or space in buildings available to a charter school, and shall bargain in good faith over the cost of rent, services and maintenance related to such space; provided further, that a charter school may, with the approval of the Secretary and the State Board for the sole purpose of determining compliance with this proviso, contract with a sectarian or religious college or university incorporated in the State and operating a program or programs for teacher education within the State empowered to enter into contracts for such property and services, so long as the property contracted for is used in a nonreligious and nonsectarian manner and the services contracted for are provided in a nonreligious and nonsectarian manner and are of a nonreligious and nonsectarian type. A charter school's continued use of school district space shall be subject to review at least on a 5-year basis, and may be terminated by the district with 1 year's notice, if the district's non-charter school capacity requirements warrant. Charter schools shall have preference over state agencies for purposes of § 1057(b) of this title except that nothing in this section shall require the displacement of any tenant either during the term of its current lease or any renewal thereof;
(7) Hire, manage, and terminate any school employee in accordance with the terms of its personnel policies or any collective bargaining agreement it negotiates with its employees;
(8) Establish reasonable academic and disciplinary standards specifically related to the missions, goals and educational objectives for the charter school as set forth in its charter for students to continue enrollment in the charter school; provided, however, that an expulsion from a charter school shall have the same effect for the purposes of § 4130 of this title as expulsion from a school district. Charter schools may refer students to the alternative programs operated pursuant to the provision of Chapter 16 of this title subject to the following conditions:
a. A student may only be referred to a program which serves that student's district of residence and only if there is space available in such program to serve the student;
b. The student otherwise meets eligibility criteria for students who may be enrolled in such program; and
c. The student's district of residence and the charter school in which the student is enrolled agree to a proration of student funding between or among the charter school and the school district in which the student resides, in which case the district of residence shall become liable for any cost associated with the placement of the student in the alternative program;
(9) Establish an application and admissions process which shall enable the charter school to provide the local districts in which its students reside with a preliminary roster of its students for the subsequent school year on or before May 1 of each year. Each charter school shall make the timetable for its application and admissions process identical to any such timetable set forth by this Code for the operation of a public school choice program.
§ 505 Exemptions; rules and regulations.
(a) Except as otherwise specified in this chapter and title, a charter school is exempt from all provisions of this title except the provisions of Chapter 31 of this title, and all regulations of any board of education of a reorganized school district, although a charter school may elect to comply with 1 or more such provisions.
(b) The Department of Education shall have the authority to promulgate rules and regulations that would further define the application, approval criteria and processes.
§ 506 Restrictions.
(a) A charter school shall not:
(1) Charge tuition, except in accordance with Chapter 6 of this title, or collect fees not permitted to be assessed by other school districts;
(2) Be home-based nor engage in any sectarian or religious practices in its educational program, admissions policies, employment policies or operations;
(3) Restrict student admissions except:
a. By age and grade;
b. By lottery in the case of over-enrollment;
c. By gender in the case of a same-gender school, except that there may not be more than 1 same-gender school for each gender operating simultaneously, and any same-gender charter school authorized prior to June 30, 2014, may have their charter renewed and continue to operate. Any subsequent same-gender charter school that seeks to operate in the State shall make its application to the Department of Education and the State Board of Education.
(4) Discriminate against any student in the admissions process because of race, creed, color, sex (except in the case of a same-gender school), handicap, or national origin, or because the student's school district of residence has a per student local expenditure lower than another student seeking admission; or
(5) Be formed to circumvent a court-ordered desegregation plan.
(b) Preferences in student admissions may be given to:
(1) Siblings of students currently enrolled at the school;
(2) Students attending an existing public school converted to charter status. Parents of students at a school converted to charter status shall be provided with a plan the district will use to address the educational needs of students who will not be attending the charter school;
(3) Students enrolling in a new (nonconverted) charter school may be given preference under the following circumstances as long as the school has described its preferences in the school's charter:
a. Students residing within a 5-mile radius of the school;
b. Students residing within the regular school district in which the school is located;
c. Students who have a specific interest in the school's teaching methods, philosophy, or educational focus;
d. Students who are at risk of academic failure;
e. Children of persons employed on a permanent basis for at least 30.0 hours per week during the school year by the charter school.
(4) Children of a school's founders, so long as they constitute no more than 5% of the school's total student population. For the purposes of this paragraph "founder" shall not include anyone whose sole significant contribution to the school was monetary, but otherwise shall be determined by the founding Board of Directors subject to Department of Education regulations.
(c)(1) On or before April 1 of each school year, a charter school shall have enrolled, at a minimum, 80% of its total authorized number of students, and the administrator of each charter school shall, pursuant to the requirements below, provide a written certification of that enrollment to the Department of Education and to the superintendent of each public school district in which 1 or more of the charter school's students reside.
(2) The certification from the charter school's administrator shall contain an updated roster of students who are enrolled at the charter school, together with their home address and district of residence.
(3) A charter school shall obtain a written confirmation, signed by a parent or guardian of each student in that student's initial year of attendance at the charter school, that the student will remain in the charter school for at least 1 school year. That confirmation shall include a statement reading:
"I understand that my child is required to remain in this charter school, in the absence of any condition constituting good cause, for at least 1 school year"
and shall be kept on file at the school and made available for inspection to Department of Education officials or representatives from the public school district in which the student resides. After a student's initial year of enrollment, it shall be presumed for school district planning purposes only that the student will continue to attend the charter school until completion of the school's highest grade level and no further written confirmation need be obtained by the charter school.
(d) A pupil accepted for enrollment in a charter school pursuant to this chapter shall remain enrolled therein for a minimum of 1 year unless, during that 1-year period, good cause exists for the failure to meet this requirement. For purposes of this section only, "good cause" shall be defined as a change in a child's residence due to a change in family residence, a change in the state in which the family residence is located, a change in the marital status of the child's parents, a change caused by a guardianship proceeding, placement of a child in foster care, adoption, participation by a child in a foreign exchange program, participation by a child in a substance abuse or mental health treatment program, a reported, recorded and substantiated instance of "bullying" against their child as defined in § 4112D of this title, mutual agreement by the board of directors of the charter school, the board of the receiving district and the parent or parents or guardian of such child to the termination of such enrollment, or a set of circumstances consistent with this definition of "good cause."
(e) If at any time during any fiscal year of its existence, a charter school knows or reasonably should know that it has or will become unable to pay in full its projected expenses as they fall due, the school shall immediately so advise the Department of Education and its authorizer, and shall provide the Department with all financial information relating to revenues and expenses of the school necessary for the Department to determine the extent and cause of any potential operating deficit. If a charter school should fail to provide the notice to the Department of Education and authorizer required by this subsection or shall fail to cooperate with the Department in the production of financial information pursuant to this subsection, the authorizer shall subject the school's charter to formal review pursuant to the provisions of § 515 of this title in order to determine whether grounds exist to take remedial measures.
(f) If a child would qualify for a no- or low-cost breakfast or lunch under a federal national school breakfast or lunch program, beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, the charter school shall provide breakfast and lunch to the child at no or low cost to the child's family. Charter schools shall not consider whether a child would qualify for no- or low-cost breakfast or lunch under a federal national school breakfast or lunch program when making enrollment decisions.
70 Del. Laws, c. 179, § 2; 71 Del. Laws, c. 367, § 1; 72 Del. Laws, c. 118, § 2; 72 Del. Laws, c. 312, § 1; 72 Del. Laws, c. 316, §§ 1, 2; 73 Del. Laws, c. 164, § 24; 73 Del. Laws, c. 313, §§ 2, 7, 11; 74 Del. Laws, c. 327, § 1; 76 Del. Laws, c. 202, §§ 1-6; 79 Del. Laws, c. 51, §§ 1, 2; 79 Del. Laws, c. 321, § 1; 79 Del. Laws, c. 323, § 2; 80 Del. Laws, c. 383, § 2.;
§ 507 Labor relations.
(a) A public school may only be converted to a charter school by approval of the board of the school district in which it is located and that the charter application received the approval of over 50% of the teachers and over 50% of the parents residing in the attendance area of the school with a child or children under the age of 18 years, who, after 30 days prior written notice to all teachers and parents eligible to vote, attend a public meeting held for the specific purpose of voting on the proposed conversion; provided, however, that such approval shall not be required where a district school board converts a choice school or program with a specific career or academic subject matter focus already approved as of the effective date of this chapter to a charter school with the same focus. The employees of a school converted to a charter school who are not employed by the charter school shall be accorded the rights available to them under the provisions of their collective bargaining agreement and shall, to the extent permissible under their collective bargaining agreement, be given preference in filling positions in the school district.
(b) The employees of a school converted to charter status and who are employed by the charter school shall not be part of any bargaining unit which represented employees of the school while it was still part of the school district. Employees of charter schools shall have the same right to organize and bargain collectively as employees of other public schools. A bargaining unit shall not be deemed inappropriate under Chapter 40 of this title, simply because said unit is comprised of professional and non-professional positions within a charter school. A teacher may be a member of a bargaining unit and serve as a director of a charter school provided; however, that any teacher who is a director of a charter school shall recuse himself or herself from any board meeting, discussion or decision relating to the bargaining unit of which such teacher is a member.
(c) Labor relations between the charter school and its employees shall be governed by Chapter 40 of this title, and a charter school and its employees may agree through the collective bargaining process to abide by other provisions of this title or Code. Except as otherwise provided in this section, all teachers working in charter schools shall hold an appropriate teaching certificate and license. Notwithstanding the foregoing, for any school year with respect to which there is no "qualified alternative certification," as hereinafter defined, in effect, a charter school may, where it deems it beneficial to the success of its educational program, hire teachers that are not fully certified and licensed so long as such teachers have at least a bachelor's degree in the content area in which they are teaching and comprise no more than 35 percent of the teachers at the school. If teaching 1 or primarily 1 specific content area, a teacher shall have a bachelor's degree in that content area.
For purposes of this section, a "qualified alternative certification program" shall be one which aligns with all requirements as specified in §§ 1260-1264 of this title and pursuant regulations.
(d) At their request, teachers employed by any school district in the State, but not teachers employed by another charter school, shall be granted a 1-year leave of absence to teach in a charter school during the charter school's first year of operation only or such leave as is provided in the collective bargaining agreement of the school district. At the end of that period, they shall be allowed to return to the school district with the same level of seniority as when they left to take the leave of absence, provided that they have not been terminated for cause while at the charter school, that they have given the school district notice of their intent to return on or before the April 15 preceding the school year in which they intend to return, and according to the provisions of their collective bargaining agreement in effect in the school district. This level of seniority shall also be used for determination of their tenure in accordance with Chapter 14 of this title. Notwithstanding any of the foregoing to the contrary, teachers who, prior to June 20, 2002, were granted a leave of absence to teach in a charter school shall be permitted to complete the full period of leave then granted. Effective March 15, 2002, and each succeeding year thereafter, teachers desiring to return to the local school district on a valid leave of absence shall notify such district of that teacher's own intent in writing no later than March 15 of any year for the succeeding school year.
(e) A charter school may choose to be covered by the state retirement system established by Chapter 55 of Title 29 or choose another retirement system in lieu of the state retirement system. If the charter school chooses a retirement system other than the state retirement system, a memorandum of understanding must be executed as required by § 512(9) of this title.
(f) Effective March 1, 2002, and each succeeding year thereafter, charter school boards that desire to dispense with the services of any teacher on leave from a Delaware public school district shall give notice in writing to such teacher on or before March 1 of any year of its intent to terminate said teacher's services at the end of such school year.
§ 508 Responsibility for student transportation.
The charter school may request to have the school district where the charter school is located transport students residing in that district to and from the charter school on the same basis offered to other students attending schools operated by the district, or to receive from the State a payment equal to 70% of the average cost per student of transportation within the vocational district in which the charter school is located and become responsible for the transportation of those students to and from the charter school. In the case of students not residing in the district where the charter school is located, the parents of such students shall be responsible for transporting the child without reimbursement to and from a point on a regular bus route of the charter school. In lieu of the payment from the State specified above, if a charter school utilizes a contractor for student transportation the charter school shall publicly bid the routes, and the State shall reimburse the charter school for the actual bid costs only if lower than the payment specified above. Notwithstanding the foregoing, a student at a charter school shall receive such transportation assistance as is made available to students pursuant to a public school choice program established by this Code provided that such student otherwise meets the eligibility requirements for such assistance. In the event a charter school chooses to transport students itself, it shall do so in accordance with all public school transportation safety regulations. Local school districts and charter schools shall cooperate to ensure that the implementation of this chapter does not result in inefficient use of state appropriations for public school transportation and the State Board shall exercise its authority to approve bus routes so as to avoid such waste.
§ 509 School financing.
(a) Charter schools shall be eligible for public funds under procedures established by this section. Notwithstanding that this Code may establish procedures for the funding of a public school choice program and that such program may include charter schools among those schools which students may choose, funding for charter schools shall be as provided in this section.
(b) A charter school shall receive a payment with respect to each of its students equal to:
(1) From the State on or before December 31, the funding equivalent to the Division I staffing, including fractional funding of partial units, excluding funding for a Superintendent, Division II — All Other Costs and Energy funding, minor capital improvements and school building maintenance funded generated by the annual student unit count conducted on September 30 of each year in accordance with Department of Education regulations. Minor capital improvements shall be funded in the same manner as the Vocational Technical School Districts. In the case of Division III — Equalization, a charter school shall receive from the State an amount that is determined by weighting the Division III per unit values that would have been generated by its students had they been counted in their district of residence. In addition, a charter school shall receive a prorated portion of any other funds appropriated to the Department of Education that are intended to be allocated on a student, employee or school state share. For the purposes of calculating such funding, each charter school student shall be counted in a separately reported unit count of the charter school, and not counted for any purposes in the student's district of residence. For any partially funded unit generated at a charter school, the charter school is free to negotiate the use of such unit with the chartering district, and other public school districts, in order to purchase central custodial, administrative, clerical, direct teaching or educationally related services. If such an agreement is not negotiated, a payment based on the average State cost per unit shall be payable to both the charter school and the district issuing the charter, provided that the sum of both fractions justifies an additional unit. The State shall advance 75% of the anticipated funding pursuant to this subsection at the beginning of each fiscal year, provided that the charter school has provided the Department of Education with a preliminary roster of its students on or before May 1 of such year, and does not maintain the status of formal review or probation. The status of formal review or probation shall prompt the Department of Education to advance a level of funding appropriate to pending administrative action. A final roster shall be due September 30. Notwithstanding the above, a charter school in its first year of operation shall receive 50% of the anticipated funding pursuant to this subsection at the beginning of the fiscal year, provided that the charter school has provided the Department of Education with a preliminary roster of its students on or before May 1 of such year. The charter school shall receive an additional 25% of the funding due pursuant to this subsection on October 1 of its first year in operation and shall receive the remaining 25% on February 1 of its first year in operation, provided that the school has completed and posted the required standardized financial report forms and the Department has reviewed those forms and determined that the school's finances will not at that time lead the Department to submit the school for formal review pursuant to § 515 of this title. A determination that the school will be submitted for formal review shall prompt the Department of Education to advance a level of funding appropriate to pending administrative action. The percentage of funding to be provided to charter schools on July 1 and October 1 pursuant to the above may be increased in the Secretary's discretion.
(2) From the school districts in which its students reside on or before December 31 of each year, the local cost per student (regular or special education, as the case may be), net of transportation expenses provided for pursuant to § 508 of this title. The school districts in which its students reside shall advance at least 35% of the anticipated funding pursuant to this subsection at the beginning of each fiscal year provided that the charter school has provided the school districts of residence with a preliminary roster of its students on or before May 1 of such year. This advance may be paid from Division III — Equalization funds if the district's prior fiscal year current expense local funds balance was 20% or less pursuant to § 1507 of this title. A final roster shall be due September 30. In the event of the failure of a school district to make timely payments to a charter school as required in this paragraph, the Department of Education shall have the authority to direct transfer of such funds from future State funding allocations after the school district receives reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard, as set forth in the rules and regulations established by the Department.
(c) If a parent or legal guardian of a student enrolled outside the district pursuant to this chapter moves during the school year to a district different from the district in which that parent's or legal guardian's child resided at the time of the annual unit count, the child's first district of residence shall continue to be responsible for payments to the charter school for the balance of the school year pursuant to paragraph (b)(2) of this section. The child's new district of residence shall be responsible for all such payments during succeeding years.
(d) The Department of Education shall annually calculate the local cost per student expended by each school district for each type of student for the year immediately preceding based on the formula set forth in subsection (e) of this section, adjusted by a factor necessary to fund the charter school on a basis reasonably equivalent to the current year local cost per student, which factor shall be established in the annual Appropriations Act. The Department shall annually certify each local district's local cost per student expenditure by September 1 of each year.
(e) Local cost per student as used in this section shall be calculated as follows:
Total Local Operating Expenditure in Preceding Fiscal Year
____ Total Division I Units minus Spec School Units
____ Number of Pupils per Unit
Total Local Operating :u1250<equalsign>Sum of all expenditures
Expenditure in from local sources minus
Preceding FY local expenditures for
tuition minus local expenditures for debt service minus local expenditures for Minor Capital Improvement minus local cafeteria expenditures minus any other local expenditures deemed by the Secretary of Education to be inappropriate for inclusion for the purpose of this chapter.
Division I Units :u1250<equalsign>Division I Units certified by
For each District the Department of Education
or Special School as of September 30th of each
Pupils per Unit :u1250<equalsign>Number of Pupils required for
particular unit of funding as
specified in § 1703 of this
(f) For any student, who because of educational need requires services that are appropriately financed pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 6 of this title, either at the outset or subsequent to a decision to enroll in a charter school, the student's district of residence shall remain financially responsible for such student and the charter school shall receive from such district a payment determined in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 6 of this title.
(g) Any payment received by a charter school pursuant to this section may be used for current operations, minor capital improvements, debt service payments or tuition payments.
(h) The Department of Education, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget, shall annually publish a list of vacant and unused buildings and vacant and unused portions of buildings that are owned by this State or by school districts in this State and that may be suitable for the operation of a charter school. The Department of Education, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget, shall make the list available to applicants for charter schools and to existing charter schools. The list shall include the address of each building, a short description of the building and the name of the owner of the building.
(i) In return for the receipt by a charter school of state funds allocated directly to the school for extra time, professional development, driver education or disciplinary programs, the school shall provide such programs.
(j) If after September 30, a pupil ceases to be enrolled in a charter school and is thereafter enrolled in a reorganized school district for the balance of the fiscal year, nothing contained in this section shall prevent a charter school which has received any funding for the student and the school district in which the student is subsequently enrolled from entering into an agreement providing for the proration of student funding between or among the charter school and the school district in which the student is subsequently enrolled. Funding in any subsequent fiscal year shall be as otherwise provided in this Code.
(k) A charter school shall display on its website all financial reporting documents as specified in § 513 of this title.
(l ) Charter schools shall have the same access to conduit bond financing as any other nonprofit organization, and no state or local government unit may impose any condition or restriction on a charter school's approval solely because the applicant is a public charter school. It is the further intent that a charter school shall apply for conduit funding to issuers within the State unless more favorable terms may be found elsewhere.
(m) The Department of Education shall administer a performance fund for charter schools, to be known as the "Charter School Performance Fund." The Department of Education shall establish threshold eligibility requirements for applicants desiring to apply for funding, which shall include but not be limited to a proven track record of success, as measured by a performance framework established by the charter school's authorizer or comparable measures as defined by the Department. The Department of Education shall also establish criteria to evaluate applications for funding, which shall include but not be limited to the availability of supplemental funding from nonstate sources at a ratio to be determined by the Department. The Department of Education shall prioritize those applications from applicants that have:
(1) Developed high-quality plans for start-up or expansion; or
(2) Serve high-need students, as defined by the Department.
The Fund shall be subject to appropriation and shall not exceed $5 million annually.
70 Del. Laws, c. 179, § 2; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1; 71 Del. Laws, c. 132, §§ 360, 361; 71 Del. Laws, c. 180, § 26; 71 Del. Laws, c. 354, § 383; 72 Del. Laws, c. 395, § 351; 73 Del. Laws, c. 164, §§ 9, 10; 75 Del. Laws, c. 88, § 16(2); 75 Del. Laws, c. 89, § 425; 78 Del. Laws, c. 77, § 33(b); 78 Del. Laws, c. 187, §§ 2, 3; 79 Del. Laws, c. 51, §§ 3, 4; 79 Del. Laws, c. 321, § 1.;
§ 510 State assistance.
(a) The Department of Education shall distribute information announcing the availability of the charter school program, explaining the powers and responsibilities of a charter school contained in this chapter, and describing the application process to each school district and public post-secondary educational institution, and through press releases to each major newspaper in the State.
(b) The Department of Education shall provide technical assistance to potential charter school applicants upon request.
(c) The Department of Education shall provide technical and other forms of assistance to charter schools on the same basis as to school districts.
(d) The Department of Education shall, in concert with the approving authority and the applicant, apply for available federal or foundation grants providing funding for the planning and start-up of charter schools and the Department of Education shall administer such funds as may be appropriated by the General Assembly for the purpose of assisting in the planning and start-up of charter schools.
§ 511 Approval procedure [For application of this section to the City of Wilmington, see 80 Del. Laws, c. 17, § 2]
(a) An approved charter school application, together with such conditions imposed pursuant to subsection (l) of this section, shall be the basis for a charter granted to the charter school by the approving authority pursuant to this chapter and shall be governed by the terms of this chapter. Upon approval of a charter school application, the Department of Education shall present applicants seeking a charter from the state with a charter contract ("Charter Contract") that clearly defines the respective roles, powers, and responsibilities of the school and the approving authority and incorporates the provisions of the performance agreement entered into between the charter school and its approving authority pursuant to CDR 14-200-275. Other approving authorities may choose to present applications they approve with such a Charter Contract. Where a Charter Contract is utilized, both the school and the approving authority shall execute the Charter Contract. Notwithstanding anything in this chapter to the contrary, the initial term of a newly approved charter shall expire at the end of the fifth fiscal year following the fiscal year in which the charter was initially approved, and any subsequent charter renewal term shall expire at the end of each successive fifth fiscal year thereafter unless extended pursuant to § 514A(b) of this title. If an approved charter is modified to delay the initial opening of the school, then the expiration date of the initial term of the charter shall be adjusted accordingly, to ensure that the charter has 4 years of instructional operation prior to its charter expiration.
(b)(1) Charters shall be modified by the same procedure and based on the same criteria as they are approved. When the approving authority is the Department of Education, minor modifications to a charter that are requested by the charter school only may be approved by the Secretary, subject to rules and regulations established by the Department with the approval of the State Board. Modifications associated with the provision of student transportation services as a result of changes to the Annual Appropriations Act to § 508 of this title shall be considered a minor modification.
(2) A request for modification to increase a charter school's total authorized enrollment by more than 15% shall be considered a major modification, regardless of whether the additional students will attend school at the current location or at a separate location.
(3) In addition to meeting the approval criteria established in § 512 of this title, an authorizer considering an application for a new charter school or for a modification as described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section in which the increased enrollment will occur less than 18 months from the date of application (an "expansion"), shall also consider the potential positive and negative impact of the proposed new school or expansion on the schools and the community from which the charter school's new students will likely be drawn. In reviewing the impact, the authorizer shall consider all information furnished to it during the application process and may exercise its reasonable discretion in determining whether the proposed new school or expansion is contrary to the best interests of the community to be served, including both those students likely to attend the charter school and those students likely to attend traditional public schools in the community.
(4) Information regarding impact, as defined by regulations established by the Department with the approval of the State Board no later than October 31, 2014, shall be considered in conjunction with the factors in § 512 of this title but shall not alone provide the basis for disapproval of an application for a new charter application or an expansion. The information regarding impact may, however, be among the bases for disapproval of an application or expansion if at least 1 criteria in § 512 of this title is also deemed not satisfied by the authorizer. The information regarding impact may, by itself or in combination with other factors, form the basis for conditions being placed on the approval. Those conditions may include but shall not be limited to restrictions or prohibitions on geographic location, programmatic offerings, academic focus or emphasis, and grade levels served. In no event shall the placement of conditions on approval, based solely or in part on considerations of impact, be considered disapproval of an application.
(c) Charter school applications shall be submitted to a local school board or the Department for approval as an approving authority. Whenever a charter school seeks a charter from the Department as approving authority, such approval shall require the assent of both the Secretary and the State Board, as shall any action pursuant to §§ 515 and 516 of this title. The approving authority shall be responsible for approval of the charter school pursuant to this section and for continuing oversight of each charter school it approves. In addition, for a charter school applicant seeking to locate in the City of Wilmington, prior to the approving authority authorizing the school to open, the Mayor and the City Council of the City of Wilmington may review and provide comment regarding the likely impact of the proposed charter school on students in the City of Wilmington as outlined in this chapter and further defined in regulations.
(d) The Department shall make an initial review of all new charter school and charter school modification applications it receives in order to assess the completeness and quality of each such application based on the application submission criteria established in this title. Upon a finding that an application does not warrant a full review, the Department shall notify the applicant in writing of the deficiency or deficiencies and the application shall receive no further consideration. Each district that is asked by an applicant to serve as an approving authority may, in its discretion, undertake such an initial sufficiency review and make such an initial sufficiency determination.
(e) Applicants seeking a charter from the Department that have submitted an application deemed by the Department sufficient to receive a full review shall be offered an opportunity for an interview in support of the application. Such interviews will allow the Department to assess applicant capacity, allow it to clarify information provided in the application, and gather additional information. The information gained in the interview process may be among the factors considered by the approving authority in approving or denying an application.
(f) Potential charter school applicants may engage in discussions with a potential approving authority before submitting an application for approval to establish a charter school.
(g)(1) Except as noted in paragraph (g)(2) of this section, new charter school applications shall be submitted to an approving authority between November 1 and December 31 for schools to be established and prepared to admit students on or after the second August 1 thereafter.
(2) Applications by a highly successful charter school operator as described in subsection (p) of this section shall be submitted to an approving authority between November 1 and December 31 for schools to be established and prepared to admit students on or after the August 1 thereafter. The application submission dates in this subsection may be amended by agreement of the authorizer and the applicant if necessary to allow the applicant to serve students who would otherwise be displaced due to the closure of an existing charter school.
(3) Applications to renew a charter shall be submitted to the approving authority on or before September 30 of the year immediately preceding the calendar year in which the school's current charter term will expire.
(4) Charter school applications which propose the conversion of an existing public school, or a part thereof to charter school status must be submitted to an approving authority on or before October 30 if the application proposes that the newly converted charter school is to be established and prepared to admit students for the next ensuing school year.
(5) If the date for submitting an application or commencing the school's instructional program shall fall on a weekend or state holiday, the time for such shall be continued to the first working day thereafter.
(h) Any local school board may limit the number of new charter school applications it will consider in any year or the number of charters it will grant, but within 20 working days after December 31 must hold a public meeting to decide whether or not to consider it. A local school board shall not be required to accept any new charter school applications for a charter school unless, by September 1 of each year the school board shall affirmatively vote to accept such applications.
(i) If an approving authority decides to consider a charter application, the approving authority must rule on whether to approve the application at a public meeting within 90 working days after December 31.
(j) Within 5 days of deciding to consider an application, the approving authority shall form an accountability committee to review the charter school application. The accountability committee's report to the local school board shall address the approval criteria set forth in § 512 of this title. The committee shall meet with the applicant in the course of its investigation and provide the applicant the opportunity to review and comment on the committee's report 15 days before it is issued to the approving authority. The committee's final report shall be provided to the applicant and be made available to the public.
(k) After giving 15 days' public notice, the approving authority shall hold public hearings to assist in its decision whether to approve a charter application. At least 1 such hearing shall be held prior to the issuance of the accountability committee's final report on each new application. The approving authority shall, in advance of the 15-day public notice period, post any and all charter applications under consideration on a public website maintained by the approving authority, and during this public notice period shall accept electronically submitted and written comments from the public.
(l ) Subject to any limitations imposed by the approving authority pursuant to subsection (h) of this section, if the application is found by the approving authority to meet the criteria set forth in § 512 of this title and complying with the approval process in this section, it may approve the application subject to such conditions as the approving authority, in its sole discretion, may deem appropriate to ensure the applicant's continuing compliance with the approval criteria. Whenever approval of a charter school requires the assent of the State Board, as set forth in subsection (c) of this section, the State Board may, in addition to approving or disapproving the decision of the Secretary, place or modify conditions on the approval to address considerations of impact, consistent with the requirements of paragraph (b)(4) of this section.
(m) If an application is made to the Department or a local board as an approving authority and the charter application is not approved, such decision shall be final and not subject to judicial review.
(n) All applications for a charter shall contain an affirmative representation by the applicant that no later than June 15 immediately preceding the authorized opening date of the school, the applicant shall secure a certificate of occupancy, either temporary or final, for the premises in which the school is to be located, provided that any temporary certificate of occupancy must permit occupancy at the premises by school staff and students for school purposes. If the charter is approved and the charter holder shall subsequently fail to obtain the necessary certificate of occupancy as required by this section, the opening of the school shall be delayed by 1 year from the date previously authorized by the approving authority and the charter shall be placed on probation subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the Department of Education with the consent of the State Board of Education. No waivers are available for this requirement.
(o) A local school board that approves an application for a charter school may do so only on the condition that the charter school is located in and provides all educational and related services, with the exception of transportation services and other K-12 noninstructional services and activities, within the boundaries of the approving local school board's district lines. Once approved, the charter school may not subsequently change its location from the school district specified in its originally approved charter.
(p) "Highly successful charter school operator" means an entity that currently operates or whose principals currently operate 1 or more highly successful charter schools showing sustained high levels of student growth and achievement and sustained fiscal stewardship, as further defined by Department regulation. Notwithstanding the provisions of this chapter, for purposes of this definition the phrase "charter school" shall include public schools operated under a charter regardless of whether the schools are located or organized in Delaware. A highly successful charter school operator may be authorized to operate a charter school in the timeframe provided by paragraph (g)(2) of this section including when an application is submitted for the purpose of operating a charter school at the site of and serving students currently attending a charter school whose charter has been revoked, has not been renewed, or whose charter is on formal review and whose board has agreed to abandon their charter.
(q) The charter school application shall include a disclosure of any ownership or financial interest in the charter school, including but not limited to the building and real property to be used in the operation of the charter school, by the charter school founders and the board of directors of the proposed charter school. If the building and real property to be used in operation of the charter school are not known at the time of application, disclosures pertaining to those interests shall be made once the building and real property to be used in operation of the charter school become known. In addition, the board of directors of the charter school shall have a continuing duty to disclose such interests to the approving authority pursuant to this chapter during the terms of any charter. The charter school and the Department shall promptly disclose the information required by this subsection to any member of the public upon request.
(r) Charter school board members and founders shall be required to complete the criminal background checks in the same manner as persons seeking employment with a public school pursuant to § 8571(a) of Title 11 [repealed]. In addition, the authorizer shall complete a check of the Child Protection Registry established by § 921 of Title 16 for charter school founders and board members. The results of said background and Child Protection Registry checks shall be provided to the authorizer for review as part of the application process and on an ongoing basis if new board members are seated or current board members are convicted of a crime or placed on the Child Protection Registry. Any person convicted of a felony offense or of any crime against a child in this State or any other jurisdiction shall not be permitted to serve as a founder or member of a charter school board of directors. No individual shall be permitted to serve as a charter school founder or board member if the individual would not be permitted to be employed in a public school pursuant to § 8563 of Title 11 [sic] regarding the Child Protection Registry. Other crimes may be considered disqualifying, in the discretion of the authorizer. The State Bureau of Identification may release any subsequent criminal history to the authorizer. Individuals currently serving as board members of a charter school must complete a criminal background check and the Department shall complete a Child Protection Registry check for such members on or before February 1, 2012.
(s) The founder or board member shall be provided with a copy of all information forwarded to the authorizer pursuant to subsection (r) of this section. Information obtained under subsection (r) of this section is confidential and may only be disclosed to the chief officer and 1 additional person in each authorizing body.
(t) Costs associated with obtaining criminal history information and child protection registry checks shall be paid by the applicant.
70 Del. Laws, c. 179, § 2; 70 Del. Laws, c. 425, § 346; 71 Del. Laws, c. 132, §§ 357-359, 371, 372; 71 Del. Laws, c. 180, § 28; 72 Del. Laws, c. 118, § 3; 72 Del. Laws, c. 473, § 1; 73 Del. Laws, c. 164, §§ 11-14; 73 Del. Laws, c. 313, §§ 1, 8; 74 Del. Laws, c. 360, §§ 2, 3, 6; 75 Del. Laws, c. 112, § 1; 76 Del. Laws, c. 79, § 140; 76 Del. Laws, c. 280, § 395; 78 Del. Laws, c. 187, §§ 4-7; 79 Del. Laws, c. 51, § 5; 79 Del. Laws, c. 268, § 1; 79 Del. Laws, c. 321, § 1; 80 Del. Laws, c. 17, § 1; 80 Del. Laws, c. 154, § 2.;
§ 512 Approval criteria.
Subject to the process prescribed in § 511 of this title, charter school applications shall be in the form established by the approving authority and shall be approved if, after the exercise of due diligence and good faith, the approving authority finds that the proposed charter demonstrates that:
(1) The individuals and entities submitting the application are experienced and qualified to start and operate a charter school, and to 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 the development of the proposed charter school. At the time at which the school commences its instructional program and at all times thereafter, the board of directors must include a teacher from at least 1 of the charter schools operated by the board and at least 1 parent of a student enrolled in a charter school operated by the board;
(2) The chosen form of organization, identified in the articles of incorporation and by-laws, or the membership agreement, conforms with the Delaware General Corporation Law;
(3) The mission statement, goals and educational objectives are consistent with the description of legislative intent set forth in § 501 of this title and the restrictions on charter school operations set forth in § 506 in this title;
(4) The school has set goals for student performance and will utilize satisfactory indicators to determine whether its students meet or exceed such goals and the academic standards set by the State. The indicators shall include the assessments required for students in other public schools, although the charter school may adopt additional performance standards or assessment requirements, and shall include timelines for the achievement of student performance goals and the assessment of such performance;
(5) The school proposes a satisfactory plan for evaluating student performance and procedures for taking corrective action in the event that student performance at the charter school falls below such standards which are reasonably likely to succeed;
(6) The school's educational program, including curriculum and instructional strategies, has the potential to improve student performance; and must be aligned to meet the Delaware Content Standards and state program requirements, and in the case of a charter high school, state graduation requirements. High school programs must provide driver education. The educational program at all charter schools must include the provision by the school of extra instructional time for at-risk students, summer school and other services required to be provided by school districts pursuant to the provisions of § 153 of this title. A previously approved charter school may continue to operate in compliance with the terms of its current approval, but its charter shall not be renewed unless the school shall submit an application for renewal in full compliance with the requirements of this subsection;
(7) The school's educational program sets forth appropriate strategies to be employed to accommodate the needs of at-risk students and those needing special education services;
(8) The plan for the school is economically viable, based on a review of the school's proposed budget of projected revenues and expenditures for the first 3 years, the plan for starting the school, and the major contracts planned for equipment and services, leases, improvements, purchases of real property and insurance, and enrollment of no less than 200 students at full enrollment and no less than 100 students during the first 2 years of operation or for a school with an enrollment preference to primarily serve special needs students;
(9) The school's financial and administrative operations meet or exceed the same standards, procedures and requirements as a school district. If a charter school proposes to operate outside the State's pension and/or benefits systems, a specific memorandum of understanding shall be developed and executed by the charter school, the approving authority, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Controller General and the Secretary of Finance to assure that the State's fiduciary duties and interests in the proper use of appropriated funds and as a benefits and pension trustee are fulfilled and protected, the State's financial reporting requirements are satisfied, and the interests of charter school employees are protected. All charter schools shall operate within the State's official financial management system and be subject to all of the same policies and procedures which govern other agencies operating within such system;
(10) The assessment of the school's potential legal liability, and the types and limits of insurance coverage the school plans to obtain, are adequate;
(11) The procedures the school plans to follow to discipline students and ensure its students' adherence to school attendance requirements comply with state and federal law;
(12) The procedures the school plans to follow to assure the health and safety of students, employees and guests of the school while they are on school property are adequate and that the charter school will comply with applicable provisions of local, state and federal law, including the provisions of Chapter 85 of Title 11;
(13) The school shall have a satisfactory plan for timely transferring student data and records to the Department of Education;
(14) The school's board of directors shall annually certify to the Department, on a form to be provided by the Department, that prior to the payment of any fees or other sums to any management company employed by the board, the board will insure that sufficient revenues of the school are devoted to adequately support the school's proposed educational program. Such form of certification may require documentation of all actual or proposed expenditures by the school. Failure to provide sufficient funds to adequately support the school's proposed education program shall be grounds for revocation of the school's charter;
(15) The school shall have a satisfactory plan to ensure the effectiveness of its board of trustees, including governance trainings conducted for any new board members and at a minimum of once every 3 years; and
(16) The school shall have a satisfactory plan for procedures it will follow in the case of the closure or dissolution of the school, including a plan to set aside sufficient funds to cover the salaries owed to those employees who are paid over a 12-month period. For a new applicant granted under this chapter, the application shall include a reasonable plan to establish sufficient available balances pursuant to § 516(1) of this title.
70 Del. Laws, c. 179, § 2; 71 Del. Laws, c. 180, § 29; 71 Del. Laws, c. 354, § 386; 73 Del. Laws, c. 164, §§ 15-21; 73 Del. Laws, c. 313, §§ 9, 10; 75 Del. Laws, c. 88, § 21(7); 78 Del. Laws, c. 187, § 8; 79 Del. Laws, c. 51, § 6; 79 Del. Laws, c. 321, § 1.;
§ 513 Reporting and oversight.
(a) On or before December 1, each charter school shall produce an annual report for the school year ending the previous June, which shall include all of the following:
(1) An explanation of the school's progress in meeting overall student performance goals and standards.
(2) An explanation of the innovation occurring at the charter school, including but not limited to the areas of curriculum development, instruction, student culture and discipline, community and parental involvement, teacher and staff development, school operations and management, and extracurricular and after-school programming.
(3) A copy of the school's annual financial audit report, as required under subsection (d) of this section, and a copy of the school's standardized financial report setting forth by appropriate categories the school's revenues and expenditures and assets and liabilities.
(4) In the case of a single gender school, an explanation of the efforts made by the school to further advance its students' education and a quantitative analysis of its efforts and results in recruiting and retaining economically-disadvantaged students, regardless of race.
(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, each charter school seeking renewal of its charter shall produce the annual report described in subsection (a) of this section on or before October 1 of the final year of its current charter term. The approving authority may, in its discretion and for good cause shown, elect to accept an annual report submitted subsequent to this deadline.
(c) To ensure that annual reports under this section provide parents and approving authorities with clear and comparable information about the performance of charter schools, the Department of Education shall prescribe a uniform format for such reports, and the standardized financial report required to be included in such reports, which may be supplemented by requirements set by the approving authority for schools it has chartered.
(d)(1) Unless subject to an audit by the Auditor of Accounts under paragraph (d)(2) of this section, the board of directors of each charter school shall contract to have an audit of the business and financial transactions, records, and accounts after July 1 for the prior fiscal year. The results of the audit shall be shared by October 1 with the Department of Education, the Auditor of Accounts, the Division of Accounting, and the citizen budget oversight committee established under § 1508 of this title.
(2) The Auditor of Accounts shall conduct or contract for an audit of the charter school's business and financial transactions, records, and accounts after July 1 for the prior fiscal year in the event the charter school has any of the following:
a. A financial audit opinion with any of the following in any of the prior fiscal years under the current charter term:
1. Material exceptions.
2. A going concern disclosure in the notes or in an explanatory paragraph related thereto.
3. A finding of material weakness on either internal control or compliance. For purposes of this paragraph, "material weakness" means a deficiency, or a combination of deficiencies, in internal control over financial reporting, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the company's annual or interim financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis.
b. Has failed to maintain a current status with Internal Revenue Service Form 990 filings, if said filings are required of that charter school.
c. Has existed for a total of fewer than 5 years under its current and prior charter terms.
(3) If, however, a financial audit opinion of paragraph (d)(2)a. of this section is not the required annual audit and is, instead, performed at the request of the board of directors of its own volition and then provided to the Auditor of Accounts, then that financial audit opinion shall not form the basis for the Auditor of Accounts conducting or contracting the audit under paragraph (d)(2) of this section.
(e) The contract required by paragraph (d)(1) of this section must be publicly bid no less than every 5 years and must provide for all of the following:
(1) That the auditor shall, at all times during the term of the contract, hold a valid certified public accountant permit to practice license in Delaware.
(2) That the auditor shall be peer-reviewed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) at least every 3 years, and the most recent review shall have been completed with an unqualified opinion.
(3) That the audit shall meet the requirements and standards of generally-accepted government auditing standards.
(4) That the audit required by subsection (d) of this section shall include any additional specific audit procedures which have been established in advance by the charter school or the State Auditor, or both, and which apply to the specific charter school or which the State Auditor has established for all school districts and charter schools.
(f) A charter school shall display on its website the annual report including financial statement and audit required by this subsection. A charter school shall also display on its website all standardized financial report forms for the current fiscal year and the final monthly standardized financial report forms for the 5 prior fiscal years of operation. Charter schools that are required to file Internal Revenue Service Form 990 shall post the current and prior year Form 990 on the website as well.
(g) The annual report shall be submitted to the approving authority, the Department and the State Board. Employees of the school and parents of students attending the school shall receive a copy free of charge, upon request. The reports shall be public records pursuant to Chapter 100 of Title 29.
(h) The Department of Education, the State Board, and the approving authority may conduct financial, programmatic, or compliance reviews of a charter school. In cooperation with the Department, the approving authority shall conduct such reviews no less often than every 3 years.
(i) The Department of Education shall notify the superintendents of all reorganized and vocational-technical school districts of receipt of new charter school applications within 30 days of the close of the application deadline. The Department of Education shall also notify the superintendent of a reorganized school district of any applications for a major charter modification submitted by a charter school with a facility located within their district.
(j) Local school boards shall notify the superintendents of all reorganized and vocational-technical school districts of receipt of new charter school applications within 30 days of the close of the application deadline.
70 Del. Laws, c. 179, § 2; 71 Del. Laws, c. 180, § 30; 73 Del. Laws, c. 313, §§ 4, 12; 78 Del. Laws, c. 187, § 9; 79 Del. Laws, c. 51, § 7; 79 Del. Laws, c. 128, § 2; 79 Del. Laws, c. 321, § 1; 80 Del. Laws, c. 397, § 2.;
§ 514 State reports on the charter school program.
Annually, the Department shall prepare a report for the Governor, the General Assembly, and the State Board of Education on the success or failure of charter schools and propose changes in state law necessary to improve or change the charter school program. Such report shall contain a section comparing the per student expenditures of charter schools, considering all sources of such expenditures, with those of other public schools. Such report shall also contain:
(1) The Secretary of Education's analysis of, recommendations relating to, and proposed changes relating to Delaware education laws, in light of the content of annual reports submitted pursuant to § 513 of this title; and
(2) The Secretary's assessment of specific opportunities and barriers relating to the implementation of charter schools' innovations in the broader Delaware public education school system.
§ 514A Renewals and nonrenewals.
(a) Four years after a charter school has commenced its instructional program pursuant to this chapter and not later than every 5 years thereafter, the approving authority shall, upon notice to the charter school, review the performance of the charter school to determine its compliance with its charter and its satisfaction of the criteria set forth in this title for the purposes of renewal or nonrenewal.
(b) A charter school may be renewed for successive 5-year terms of duration. An approving authority may grant renewal with specific conditions for necessary improvements to a charter school. Where a charter school has demonstrated an outstanding record of performance, an approving authority may grant it a renewal term of 10 years. Any charter school receiving such an extended renewal term shall, at the midpoint of the 10-year charter, be subject to an annual performance and program evaluation that includes academic, financial and operations data that looks back to all of the years of the charter up to that point. If, upon this evaluation, the approving authority determines that the charter school's level of performance is deficient by renewal standards, the approving authority may initiate the formal renewal and nonrenewal process set forth below.
(c) No later than April 30, the approving authority shall issue a charter school renewal report and charter renewal application guidance to any charter school whose charter will expire the following year. The renewal report shall summarize the charter school's performance record to date, based on the data required by 79 Del. Laws, c. 51 and the charter contract, and shall provide notice of any weaknesses or concerns perceived by the approving authority concerning the charter school that may jeopardize its position in seeking renewal if not timely rectified. The charter school shall have 10 working days to respond to the renewal report and submit any corrections or clarifications for the report.
(d) The renewal process shall, at a minimum, provide an opportunity for the charter school to:
(1) Present additional evidence, beyond the data contained in the renewal report, supporting its case for charter renewal;
(2) Describe improvements undertaken or planned for the school; and
(3) Detail the school's plans for the next charter term.
(e) The renewal application guidance shall include the criteria that will guide the approving authority's renewal decisions. Renewal determinations by the Department of Education shall be based on its performance framework, the terms set forth in the Charter Contract, and shall take account of the school's performance agreement with the approving authority, consistent with CDR 14-200-275, and with 79 Del. Laws, c. 51. Other approving authorities may choose to adopt the criteria utilized by the Department of Education. Each approving authority shall develop a rubric based on its criteria for evaluating renewal applications and shall provide this rubric to applicants as part of the renewal application guidance. The approving authority shall publish the renewal application guidance on its website and make it available in written form upon request.
(f) No later than September 30, the governing board of a charter school seeking renewal shall submit a renewal application to the approving authority pursuant to the renewal application guidance issued by the approving authority. The approving authority shall decide upon the renewal application no later than 60 working days after the filing of the renewal application.
(g) In making charter renewal decisions, every approving authority shall:
(1) Ground its decisions in evidence of the school's performance over the term of the charter contract in accordance with the performance agreement set forth in the charter contract;
(2) Ensure that data used in making renewal decisions are available to the school and the public; and
(3) Provide a public report summarizing the evidence basis for each decision.
§ 515 Oversight and revocation process.
(a) The approving authority shall be responsible for oversight of the charter schools it approves.
(b) In addition to the review required by § 514A(a) of this title, the approving authority may notify a charter school of potential violations of its charter and submit the charter to formal review to determine whether the charter school is violating the terms of its charter and whether to order remedial measures pursuant to subsection (f) of this section.
(c) The approving authority shall issue its decision within 60 working days of giving the charter school notice. An accountability committee appointed by the approving authority shall conduct the initial review pursuant to subsection (b) of this section. The accountability committee's reports to the approving authority shall address the relevant criteria set forth in §§ 512 and 516 of this title. The committee shall meet with the applicant in the course of its investigation and provide the applicant the opportunity to review and comment on the committee's initial report 15 days before it is issued to the approving authority. The committee's final report shall be provided to the applicant, the approving authority, and made available to the public.
(d) If the accountability committee's report presents probable grounds for remedial measures, the approving authority shall hold public hearings to assist in its decision whether the criteria set forth for remedial action in § 516 of this title have been satisfied, after giving the charter school 15 days' notice. The school shall be given the opportunity to respond to the accountability committee's final report at the hearing. Members of the public shall be given the opportunity to comment at the hearing.
(e) If the accountability committee's report asserts that the school has complied with its charter and the criteria set forth in § 512 of this title, the approving authority shall approve or disapprove the final report's conclusion at a public meeting after giving the charter school 15 days' notice. If the approving authority disapproves the report, it shall identify the reasons for that decision with particularity. Thereafter, the approving authority shall hold a hearing, within 30 days, to assist in its decision of the appropriate remedy pursuant to subsection (f) of this section.
(f) If the approving authority determines that the criteria for remedial action set forth in § 516 of this title have been satisfied, it may revoke the charter and manage the school directly until alternative arrangements can be made for students at the school or place the school on a probationary status subject to terms determined by the approving authority which are directly relevant to the violation or violations.
(g) If a local school district which is an approving authority decides to revoke the school's charter or place the school on probationary status, the applicant may file for arbitration in writing with the American Arbitration Association in Philadelphia within 20 days of the local board's decision stating the reasons why it believes the local board decision was in error. A copy of said filing shall be provided simultaneously with the approving authority. The parties shall select an arbitrator in accordance with the American Arbitration Association's procedure for voluntary labor disputes, provided, however, that such arbitration shall occur in this State. The arbitrator's fees and costs shall be borne equally by the parties. The arbitrator shall convene a hearing and determine whether the local board's decision was in error. The arbitrator shall have 30 days to render a decision following the close of the hearing. The arbitrator's decision shall be final and binding upon the parties.
(h) If the approving authority is the Department and it decides to revoke the school's charter or place the school on probationary status, its decision shall be final and not subject to arbitration or judicial review.
(i) Prior to any charter school closure decision, an approving authority shall have developed and shall utilize a charter school closure protocol to ensure timely notification to parents and employees, orderly transition of students and student records to new schools, and proper disposition of school funds, property, and assets in accordance with the requirements of 79 Del. Laws, c. 51 and other applicable laws. The protocol shall specify tasks, timelines, and responsible parties, including delineating the respective duties of the school and the approving authority. In the event of a charter school closure for any reason, the approving authority shall oversee and work with the closing school to ensure a smooth and orderly closure and transition for students, parents and employees, as guided by the closure protocol.
(j) In the event of a charter school closure for any reason, all cash and cash equivalents held by or available to the school shall be distributed first to satisfy outstanding payroll obligations for employees of the school, then to the remaining creditors of the school. Remaining State General Fund appropriations for that school year shall be returned to each district in an amount proportionate to the number of students received by each district. Additional remaining State General Fund appropriations shall be returned to the general revenue fund through the State Treasury. Remaining funds received from local school districts shall be returned to each of the districts in an amount proportionate to the number of students from each district. Any remaining funds and assets will be managed by the charter, as appropriate. In the event that a charter school files for bankruptcy, the distribution of all assets will be managed by the Bankruptcy Court or otherwise in accordance with bankruptcy laws. Nothing herein shall be construed in any way to impair or preempt a lien or security interest on any asset owned by a charter school or to prevent the school from paying the costs required to close or dissolve.
(k) In the event that all state and local funds due to a charter school are paid timely as required by § 509 of this title, a charter school authorized to operate in the State must by December 31 of that fiscal year maintain an available balance sufficient to pay the minimum costs necessary to provide students with the minimum annual instructional hours required by the Department of Education during the remainder of that fiscal year as reasonably projected by the charter school. Such costs include, but are not limited to, all employee compensation required to attain the minimum annual instructional hours during the remainder of that fiscal year. Such costs also include all fixed and variable nonpayroll expenditures incurred through the final month of that school year. A school's failure to maintain sufficient available funds by December 31 of its third year of operation shall be deemed a material violation of its charter.
§ 516 Revocation criteria.
Approved charters shall be subject to revocation or probation, after the exercise of due diligence and good faith, only for the following reasons:
(1) The school, or its representatives, has committed a material fraud on the approving authority or misappropriated federal, state or local funds; or
(2) The school fails to comply with its charter or to satisfy, in its operation of the school, the criteria set forth in § 512 of this title.
§ 517 Charter transfer to different authorizer.
Transfer of a charter, and of oversight of that public charter school, from 1 authorizer to another before the expiration of the charter term shall require a petition by the public charter school or its authorizer to the new authorizer. A petition to transfer is considered a major modification and will follow the same timelines and hearing process as a major modification.
§ 518 Oversight and revocation for multiple charter holders.
For purposes of §§ 515 and 516 of this title, each charter held by a common board of directors shall be treated separately and individually.