§ 16-77.3-2. Procedure for creation and expansion of independent charter schools.
(a) Any persons or entities eligible to establish an independent charter public school may submit a proposed charter, or an amendment to a charter for an expansion, to the commissioner. For purposes of this chapter, "expansion" shall be an increase in total enrollment; an increase in the grade levels previously authorized in the charter, or the addition of a school district to the catchment area. The proposed charter shall:
(1) Be submitted to the commissioner no later than December 1st of the school year before the school year in which the independent charter school is to be established;
(2) Describe a plan for education, including the mission, objective, method of providing a basic education, measurable student academic goals that the independent charter school will meet, and process for improving student learning and fulfilling the charter and fulfilling state and national educational goals and standards;
(3) Provide a minimum of one hundred eighty (180) days of instruction to students per year;
(4) Indicate performance criteria that will be used to measure student learning and to comply with the charter, state, and national educational goals and standards;
(5) Include an agreement to provide a yearly report to parents, the community, the sending school districts, and the commissioner, that indicates the progress made by the independent charter school during the previous year in meeting the charter objectives;
(6) Present a plan for the governance, administration, and operation of the independent charter school, including the manner in which the governing board of the school will be chosen, the nature and extent of parental, professional educator, and community involvement in the governance and operation of the independent charter school, and the means of ensuring accountability to the commissioner, the sending school districts, and the council on elementary and secondary education;
(7) Identify the building that will house the independent charter school and from whom, and under what terms and conditions, it is to be provided;
(8) Describe what support services will be provided by the sending school district(s), and under what terms and conditions those services are to be provided, and describe what support services the independent charter school will obtain directly from third parties and, to the extent known, under what terms and conditions those services are to be provided;
(9) Explain the procedures that will be followed to ensure the health and safety of pupils and staff;
(10) Describe enrollment procedures, including the permissible criteria for admission in accordance with applicable state and federal law, along with a policy, or policies, that outline outreach and recruitment programs to encourage the enrollment of a diverse student population;
(11) Explain the student discipline procedures;
(12) Explain the relationship that will exist between the proposed independent charter school and its employees, including the terms and conditions of employment and the qualifications that the employees must meet. Teachers and administrators in independent charter schools must be certified pursuant to state law and regulation. Teachers and administrators in independent charter schools shall be entitled to prevailing wages and benefits as enjoyed by other Rhode Island public school teachers and administrators. Employment in an independent charter school shall be considered "service" as that term is defined in chapter 16 of this title for purposes of determining the appropriate step on a salary schedule for certified personnel. Employment in an independent charter school can be considered "service" as that term is defined in chapter 16 of this title for determining status in the teachers' retirement system. All employees, and prospective employees of an independent charter school shall be deemed to be public school employees, having the same rights under Rhode Island and federal law as employees, and prospective employees at a non-chartered public school;
(13) Identify, with particularity, the state statutes, state regulations, and sending school district(s) rules from which variances are sought in order to facilitate operation of the independent charter school. Explain the reasons for each variance and the alternative method by which the concern that gave rise to the regulation or provision will be addressed;
(14) Provide a financial plan, including a proposed budget for the term of the charter, and an annual audit of the financial and administrative operations of the independent charter school, and the manner in which the funds allocated to the independent charter school will be managed and disbursed;
(15) Provide procedures by which teaching personnel and parents can legally challenge decisions of the governing board of the school that do not conform to the school's charter;
(16) Provide a copy of the proposed bylaws of the independent charter school; and
(17) Provide written support from town or city council(s) in the proposed catchment area if required pursuant to § 16-77-5.1.
(b) Any nonprofit organization that seeks to establish an independent charter school must submit its financial records and financial plan for operating the school to the auditor general, who shall review the records, the financial plan, and the financial integrity of the organization. At the time of submission of a proposed charter, the financial records and financial recordkeeping system of the nonprofit organization and the proposed financial plan for the independent charter school shall be reviewed by the auditor general and the auditor general shall, while the proposed charter is being considered for preliminary approval by the council on elementary and secondary education, provide an initial determination to the council on elementary and secondary education, the commissioner, and the speaker of the house of representatives and the president of the senate indicating that the auditor general is satisfied that the nonprofit organization is financially responsible. Final approval for operation of the independent charter school shall not be granted by the council on elementary and secondary education until the auditor general has approved the financial plan and financial-record keeping system and is satisfied that the nonprofit organization is financially responsible. The auditor general shall notify the council on elementary and secondary education, the commissioner, the president of the senate, and the speaker of the house of representatives of the findings. During the year immediately preceding the September in which the independent charter school is to begin operation, the charter applicant shall make any additional submissions to the auditor general prescribed by the auditor general in the initial determination. Additional submissions during the year prior to the September in which the independent charter school is to begin operation shall include, but not be limited to evidence submitted to the auditor general, not later than June 1st prior to the opening of the independent charter school, of the existence of an agreement, option for lease or purchase, lease agreement, or purchase agreement, contingent upon general assembly funding, for a facility in which the independent charter school will operate in its first year of operation. The auditor general shall have the authority to review independent charter schools affiliated with nonprofit organizations on an annual basis or require the school to have an annual, certified audit in accordance with the same federal and state standards that are applicable to local public school districts. If, as a result of any annual audit, the auditor general believes there are financial irregularities, the auditor general shall withdraw the original approval and the council on elementary and secondary education shall withdraw its approval for the independent charter school to continue operation.
(P.L. 2010, ch. 84, § 5; P.L. 2010, ch. 107, § 5; P.L. 2016, ch. 466, § 2.)