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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ: SB 573 The Charter School Accountability & Authorization Act of 2014

The Committee Sub for SB 573 creates a new statewide authorizer to charter new schools. Why is this needed?

Throughout America, many types of authorizers exist including universities, local school districts, not-for-profits and even an urban mayor. While there are examples of high quality authorizers among these types, a state authorizer that has a single focus, free of other functions, has the greatest opportunity to build the specialized expertise needed to open high-quality schools and hold them accountable for performance.

Isn’t this increasing the size of government?

No. The Oklahoma Virtual Charter Board already exists to open a particular type of charter school. This bill renames that board and repurposes it to hear applications from all charter schools and hold them accountable for performance.

Does this bill only allow for a single authorizer?

No. While the state Charter Commission is created, all existing authorizers can continue. Further, while only a small number of school districts are currently allowed to authorize charter schools (mostly in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City areas), this bill would allow any interested school district in the state to authorize. This empowers local control while providing flexibility for local districts that need it.

How will this bill’s passage impact rural school districts?

Public charter schools will only open where the local community supports them. With such support, they will have a positive impact within the communities they serve. While a majority of charters across the country are located in urban areas, great examples of high performing rural charter schools exist in many states. Rural charter schools have often helped keep a small, local school in a community when a district would not, or could not, do so. Often, charter schools in rural areas fill a certain local need such as a focus on the history and culture of the community and its people or they embody a particular focus such as agriculture or career and technical education.

Why has this bill been called a “charter school accountability bill?”

The main focus of this bill is to improve Oklahoma’s charter school law so more high-quality charter schools will be allowed to open and all underperforming charter schools will be closed. In fact, with automatic closure provisions for any charter schools ranking in the bottom 15% of all public schools (unless the charter school demonstrates exceptional circumstances that the authorizer finds justifiable), this bill raises charter schools to a higher level of accountability than traditional district schools.

Specific accountability provisions include (but are not limited to):

  • Mandatory performance-based charter contracts,
  • Required oversight of schools by their authorizers, with annual performance reports on each school,
  • The ability for authorizers to sanction schools or require corrective actions short of school closure,
  • Rigorous renewal and closure procedures,
  • Elevated requirements to gain a charter for virtual schools and for those managed by an education service provider and/or replicating an existing school.

Additionally, the bill requires authorizers to adopt and follow nationally-recognized best practices in the field and tasks the Office of Education Accountability and Quality (EQA) with overseeing the authorizers, holding them accountable for providing proper oversight to their schools and for closing the ones that fail to perform.

With a large number of school districts in the state, why do we need more schools?

With flexibility of design, charter schools fill in needs, across many areas, urban and rural. Nationally, in areas of high need, such as urban centers, charters open to provide high-quality education. In rural areas, charter schools have been opened to help educate kids where not all grade levels are offered or where the traditional school closed or to meet a certain community need or area of focus. Sometimes, charter schools have opened near, and/or in conjunction with, highly successful districts to fill a specific need such as special education, to provide highly rigorous curriculum, or with a focus on career and technical education. The bottom line is that charter schools exist where the need is the greatest and the community demands it.