Starting a charter school? Get your answers here.
Existing local schools, private individuals, private organizations, and state and local public entities may organize a charter public school subject to a performance-based contract approved by both the state and local boards of education or by the state board of education alone.
The term “charter petitioner” does not include home study programs or schools, sectarian schools, religious schools, private for-profit schools, private educational institutions not established, operated, or governed by the State of Georgia, or existing private schools.
The Petition Process
An application, commonly referred to as a petition, must be submitted to and approved by a local authorizer. After approval by a local authorizer, the petition must be submitted to the Charter Schools Division at the Georgia Department of Education. Petitions will then be subject to an evaluation process and will ultimately be approved or denied by the State Board of Education.
Upon denial by a local authorizer, applicants may submit their petitions to the State Board of Education. Petitions approved by the State Board of Education alone, known as state-chartered special schools, receive only state funding.
When a petition has been received by the Georgia Department of Education, it is first read and evaluated by qualified reviewers at the Department. These reviewers evaluate the overall capacity of the petitioner to develop, launch and sustain operation of a high-quality charter school. Second, petitioners are invited to participate in a formal interview. Third, the Charter Schools Division provides a list of recommendations to the petitioner and gives the petitioner an opportunity to revise the petition. Revised petitions must first be newly approved by the local board of education before re-submission. The revised petition is reviewed and the Charter Schools Division makes a recommendation of either approval or denial to the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education receives the petition as an Item for Information at its monthly meeting, then as an Action Item the following month.
Petitioners who chose to revise their petition must have their local authorizer reapprove the revised petition. Revised petitions must undergo another review by the Charter Schools Division.
The State Board of Education does not approve petitions. The State Board of Education approves a contract that the Charter Schools Division drafts that encompasses elements of the petition. The charter contract is a legally binding document between the following parties: the petitioner, the local authorizer and the State Board of Education. Until the Charter Schools Division receives an executed contract with all appropriate signatures, the petitioner may not legally open their charter school.
If the State Board of Education denies a petition, they have 60 days to provide the petitioner with the reasons for their denial. Denied petitioners are encouraged to think critically about the reasons for denial, revise their petition accordingly and resubmit the following year.
Petitioners are required to first submit a petition to the local board(s) of education.
Applicants/petitioners who desire to serve students living in an area that includes more than one county or city school system must submit either a jointly-approved application/petition — which is approved by the local board of education in each county and/or district your school wants to serve — or submit an application/petition approved by the county or city school system in which the charter school will be physically located (the school’s home district) and include a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the home school district and each county and/or district your school wants to serve regarding how they will share money and resources for students that live outside the school’s home district.
There is no “charter application” in the sense of a fill-in-the-blank form. The charter petition itself is the application. Guidance, cover sheets for required signatures, and checklists are available on the Georgia Department of Education Charter Schools website.
A conversion charter school petition must be agreed to by a majority of the faculty and instructional staff members, and a majority of parent or guardians of students enrolled in the petitioning local school, before the petition is presented to the local board for approval.
Three hard copies and one electronic copy of the petition must be submitted to the Georgia Department of Education. The petition must include properly completed cover sheets and checklists and the petition and appendices must be clearly marked by alphabetical or numerical tabbed dividers. The Georgia Department of Education reserves the right to not accept incomplete submissions.
Start-ups: February 1
State-chartered special schools: February 1
Conversions: May 1
Renewals: At least six months prior to the date in which the petition will be received
Charter Systems: May 1
Start-ups: August 1
State-chartered special schools: August 1
Conversions: November 1
Renewals: November 1
Charter Systems: November 1
The document is due on the business day prior to the deadline, or must be postmarked by the deadline.
Planning and Implementation Grants are available through the State Department of Education via the Federal Public Charter Schools Program. The grants are competitive and limited to the availability of funds. Charter petitioners are eligible to apply for these grants once a charter has been approved by the State Board of Education. The grants are competitive and limited to availability of federal funds. Absent extraordinary circumstances, implementation grants are limited to the amounts outlined in the application.
All charter school grant applications are posted on the Georgia Department of Education’s website on the Charter Schools Divisions homepage under “Grant Applications“.
First, consult our website under Charter School Grant Programs. If you still cannot find what you are looking for, email the Charter Schools Division.
The state planning grant is available for FY12. The application can be found on the Charter Schools Division website under “Charter School Grant Programs.”
Rules and Regulations Governing Charter Schools
A charter school may waive most state laws and SBOE rules, with the exception of those pertaining to health and safety, funding formulas, and accountability provisions.
Charter schools may not wave state laws or SBOE rules pertaining to health and safety, funding formulas, or accountability provisions. In addition, charter schools may not waive any aspect of federal law. This includes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and all applicable civil rights legislation.
Provided that a school adheres to the laws regarding open admissions, a charter school may, through its educational focus, target a particular population of students with a specific need, such as students with disabilities, English language learners, or students at risk for dropping out of school. Petitioners considering such a model are advised take the necessary precautions and to work closely with their authorizer to ensure compliance with state and federal laws.
Teacher & Staff Qualifications, Certification, and Compensation
State certification requirements are one of the provisions that charter schools are permitted to waive if they so choose. A charter school must request either this specific waiver or have the broad flexibility allowed under the Charter Schools Act to exercise this option. However, charter schools must comply with federal requirements for “highly qualified” teachers under Title IIA of No Child Left Behind. The certification levels of proposed teachers may be considered by the local and state authorizers when evaluating the petition.
At a minimum, paraprofessionals must pass a criminal background check and are subject to the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind act.
The charter petition defines the salary schedule for certified teachers. The salary schedule may or may not be the Georgia Annual/Monthly Teacher & Administrator Salary Schedule for teachers. Conversion charter schools often continue to name the local board of education as the employer with no change to benefits and the salary schedule.
Teachers at charter schools are required to be members of the Teachers Retirement System.
The budget included in the charter petition should be as specific as possible to ensure the maximum amount of transparency. Petitioners should include average teacher salaries and conservative revenue projections. Competitive grants should be purged from the petition budget. The petitioner must also make sure that charitable contributions have been reasonably assured before adding them to the budget projections.
Past petitions are posted on the charter website for the public to view. This is a good opportunity to learn from former petitioners.
Yes, please email Terence Washington, or call the office at 404-651-0042.
Educational Program and Academic Goals
Petitioners should do their research in order to establish rigorous and appropriate academic goals and objectives. Petitioners should become familiar with the academic performance of other schools in their area, as well as the academic goals of successful schools, in order to determine that they are setting goals that will raise student achievement.
Academic goals and objectives presented in the petition should be specific, measurable, attainable, rigorous, and timely. Petition reviewers will be looking for goals and objectives that meet these criteria.
Charter schools, as public schools, must serve all students, including populations with unique needs, such as English language learners, students with disabilities, and gifted students. A successful petition demonstrates that the petitioners are capable of adequately and appropriately serving these populations. Petitioners should research state and federal requirements regarding the identification, service, and assessment of special student populations. Resources include the Georgia Department of Education’s website, and the United State department of Education website. The Georgia Department of Education also provides training opportunities with regard to serving special student populations.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. Sections 20-2-2067.1(b), the State Board of Education typically grants 5-year charters. At the request of the petitioner, this term may be shorter. Charter terms may not exceed 10 years.
Yes, a charter contract may be amended pursuant to O.C.G.A. Section 20-2-2067.1. Amendments are subject to local and state board approval.
Yes, a charter contract may be terminated pursuant to O.C.G.A. Section 20-2-2068.
A charter may be terminated under the following circumstances:
- A majority of parents guardians of enrolled students OR a majority of faculty and instructional staff vote to request that the state board of education terminate the charter.
- The state board finds that a school has failed to adhere to terms of its charter, has failed to comply with generally accepted standards of fiscal management, or has violated applicable laws, or finds evidence that the continued operation of the school would be contrary to the best interests of the students or the community.
- Upon the written request of a local board of education, provided that the local board provided reasonable notice to the school and an opportunity for a hearing. Please consult O.C.G.A Section 20-2-2068 for more details regarding the termination of a charter.