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Charter Law Overview

Minnesota’s Charter School Law*

Minnesota’s charter school law has been amended every year since it’s first adoption in 1991. Its current major provisions include:

Eligible sponsors:

School district boards, intermediate district boards, public and private colleges and universities, non-profit organizations and private foundations with more than $2.0 million in assets, State Commissioner of Education on appeal from districts.

Limits on charters or chartering:

No limits on the number of charters granted; districts may not approve charters to be located in other districts without their approval (does not apply to non-district sponsors).

Eligible applicants:

New schools, public and private conversions; sixty percent of teachers in existing schools must support conversions.

Form of school organization, governance:

Charters are treated as independent LEAs; they must be organized as a non-profit or cooperative; unless a waiver is granted by the State Department of Education, licensed teachers working in the school must constitute a majority of the charter school governing board by the end of the third year of operation; boards are subject to state open meeting law.

Term length:

Up to three years.

Waivers:

Schools receive a blanket waiver of state education laws and regulations, as opposed to having to seek waivers one at a time. However, charters are required to comply with civil rights and special education laws and requirements.

Contracting:

Charters may not be granted to a for-profit management company, but non-profit boards may contract for management or other services with for-profit or non-profit organizations.

Teacher licensure, other issues:

All teachers must be licensed; teachers may organize and bargain collectively, but, if they do, they are not part of the district master contract; district teachers are granted leaves up to five years to work in charter schools; charter school teachers must be part of the state public school teachers retirement system.

General operating funding:

All funding flows directly from the state and does not pass through districts; charters received the average per pupil general revenue amount paid to districts; they are also eligible to receive virtually all other categorical aids and grants; the one major exception is the local portion of excess levy referenda revenues approved by district voters.

Transportation:

State transportation funding follows students to either the charter or district (charter school’s choice); if funding goes to the district, the district must provide transportation to students within the district’s boundaries.

Facilities assistance

Charters may rent (but not buy with state funds) their facilities; state provides a separate stream of aid explicitly for facilities on a reimbursement basis, up to 90 percent of state-approved lease expenses up to $1,200 per student (may be up to $1,500 for school under long-term lease agreements in 2003).

Special education

Charters are public schools and, as independent LEAs, are responsible for providing required special education services for eligible students; as an LEA, charters are allowed to bill back to the district of residence of special education students most excess costs beyond special education revenues received by the charter from state and federal sources.

Entrance requirements

Charters may enroll students from anywhere in the state; all students who apply for enrollment must be treated equally; a lottery must be held to choose students if more apply than there is space available.

*Adapted from the Center for Education reform’s annual rating of state charter school laws and Minnesota’s charter law — Chapter 124D.10 and 124D.11 — as most recently amended in 2003.