FAST FACTS ABOUT UTAH'S PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS
Where are the charter schools in Utah located?
View the charter schools map to see the locations of all of the Charter Schools in Utah.
What is a charter school?
Charter schools are public schools created by a group of parents, teachers or community leaders who see an educational need in their community and want to meet that need. To operate, charter founders must submit an application for approval by the State Charter School Board or the board of a school district. Like other public schools, charter schools serve students from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
What is the purpose of charter schools?
Charters schools offer parents and students additional choices about where students attend school and the school’s curricular emphasis. They allow educators freedom to try new strategies to inspire students and to experiment with innovative ways of educating students. Also, charter schools allow individuals and organizations outside of the traditional education system to create and run public schools.
Are charter schools subject to the same laws and regulations as other public schools?
As a general rule, yes. Laws and regulations relating to religion in the schools, school fees and tuition, health and safety, civil rights, annual reports, prohibitions against advocacy of unlawful behavior, screening of potential employees or volunteers for competency and fitness, and most other matters are the same for both charter schools and other public schools. The Utah State Board of Education may waive any of its rules for a charter school or other public school if the school applies for a waiver and the Utah State Board of Education finds that the waiver would not violate applicable law or cause harm to students or the school.
A charter school is exempt from existing negotiated agreements relating to the hiring, employment, and dismissal of employees. A charter school’s governing body may determine the level of compensation and the terms and conditions of employment for its employees. Charter schools may only employ educators who hold valid teaching certificates or who meet State Board requirements for alternative certification or authorization.
Are there special rules that must be met if an existing public school is the subject of a charter school proposal?
The rules vary, depending on whether the entire school or simply part of the school is being considered for charter school status.
If the entire school is being considered, then two-thirds of the licensed staff in the school and two-thirds of the parents or guardians of students attending the school must sign a petition supporting the change. In addition, the local school board may reject the proposal if students whose parents or guardians choose not to remain in the new charter school would not have access to a public education comparable to that which they would receive were the school not to become a charter school.
If only part of the school is being considered, then the petition need be signed only by a majority of the educators and a majority of the parents or guardians of students attending the school. There is also no requirement relating to non-charter school participants when only part of the school is converted to charter status.
May a charter school limit its enrollment to certain students?
No. A charter school is part of the public education system and must be open to all students, without discrimination, on the same basis as other public schools. If the number of students applying to enroll in a charter school exceeds the capacity of the school or of programs, classes, or grade levels within the school, then those to be admitted are chosen at random from among the applicants, subject to certain preferences:
Mandatory preference. If a public school converts to charter school status, students who would have attended the public school must be given preference in enrollment.
Optional preference. Based on the written charter, preference may also be given to the following:
- Students whose parents were actively involved in the development of the charter school (Founders)
- Students who have a sibling currently attending the charter school
- Students returning from the previous school year.
- Students who reside within the school district where the charter school is located.
- Students whose parent is a licensed classroom teacher in the charter school
Do charter schools provide services for special student populations?
Yes. As public schools, charter schools must meet all state and federal laws in supporting students with disabilities, limited English proficiency, socio-economic disadvantages, and other special needs.
Are charter school private schools or religion based?
No. Charter schools are public schools. They must function like every other public school in Utah – they must meet all of the same standards and comply with all of the same laws. A charter school program cannot be affiliated with or restricted to a particular religion. Curriculum, admission policies and employment practices must all be nonsectarian.
How are charter schools held accountable for what they do?
A charter school must make the same annual reports as other public schools, including an annual financial audit and monthly budget report. Additionally, the charter school must participate in the statewide testing programs. Charter schools submit all reports to the Utah State Board of Education.
Are high school charter schools required to be accredited?
Yes. In the State of Utah, by law all public schools granting high school credit are required to be accredited by the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools.
Who pays to operate charter schools in Utah?
On the whole, charter schools are funded much like traditional districts – with taxpayer dollars. Charter schools are funded on the principle that state funds follow the student. The legislature appropriates funds each year to replace some of the local property tax revenues that are not available to charter schools. Charter schools may also apply for state and federal start-up funds and specialized funds if qualifying students are served in approved programs.
A charter school may not charge tuition or require students or parents to make donations and is subject to the same rules regarding school fees as other public schools.
What must be included in a charter school’s charter?
A charter is a contract between a charter school and the State Board, setting forth the conditions under which the school will operate. The charter should include detailed information about the school, including at a minimum:
- The ages or grade levels to be served
- Projected maximum student enrollment and projected enrollment each of the first 3 years of operation
- The way the school will be governed
- The budget and other financial matters
- Provisions for financial audits and annual reports
- The school’s mission, educational goals, and curriculum
- Plans for community outreach, including distribution of information about charter schools to interested parties, charter school opening dates, and how to apply for admission
- Methods for student assessment, if any, in addition to participation in the statewide public education assessment program and end-of-level core curriculum assessments
- Admission, suspension, and dismissal procedures including a student discipline and conduct policy
- Procedures for reviewing parents’ complaints about the school
- Opportunities for involving parents
- Insurance for the school, its employees and governing body
- The school calendar, including the length of the school day and school year
- Plans for extracurricular activities, if any
- District in which school will be located and physical facilities' address, if known at time of application
- Educator qualifications
- If a current public school is to be used, plans relating to the accommodation of current students and employees who do not want to participate in the charter school
How long is a charter valid?
A charter is valid until revoked or according to the terms set forth in the district issued charter.
How are charter schools governed?
Charter schools have their own governing boards and most operate independently of local school districts. The Utah State Board of Education and the State Charter School Board have oversight responsibility for charter schools and annually review the progress of every charter school.
What are the federal guidelines affecting the operation of a charter school?
Visit the US Charter Schools Federal Guidance on Public Charter Schools Program, Admissions and Lotteries section.
Where can I get additional information about charter schools?
Additional information, can be obtained either through the Charter Schools Home Page on the Utah State Office of Education web site at:
or from Marlies Burns at the Utah State Office of Education. Call Marlies at (801) 538-7720.
Charter Schools Program
Attn: Marlies Burns
Utah State Office of Education
P O Box 144200
Salt Lake City, Utah