§ 16-77-3.1. Legislative purpose.
(a) The purpose of this chapter is to provide an alternative within the public education system by offering opportunities for entities identified in § 16-77-2.1 to establish and maintain a high performing public school program according to the terms of a charter. The key appeal of the charter school concept is its promise of increased accountability for student achievement in exchange for increased school autonomy.
(b) Charter public schools are intended to be vanguards, laboratories, and an expression of the on-going and vital state interest in the improvement of education. Notwithstanding the provisions of this section or any law to the contrary, a charter school shall be deemed to be a public school acting under state law and subject to the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, 42 U.S.C. § 6101, et seq., title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, et seq., title IX of the educational amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq., § 794 of title 29, and part B of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1411, et seq. All students and prospective students of a charter school shall be deemed to be public school students, having all the same rights under federal and Rhode Island law as students and prospective students at a non-chartered public school. These charter public schools shall be vehicles for research and development in areas such as curriculum, pedagogy, administration, materials, facilities, governance, parent relations and involvement, social development, instructor's and administrator's responsibilities, working conditions, student performance and fiscal accountability. It is the intent of the general assembly to create within the public school system vehicles for innovative learning opportunities to be utilized and evaluated in pilot projects. The provisions of this chapter are to be interpreted liberally to support the purposes set forth in this chapter and to advance a renewed commitment by the state to the mission, goals, and diversity of public education.
(c) It is the intent of the general assembly to provide opportunities for teachers, parents, pupils, and community members to establish and maintain public schools that operate independently as a method to accomplish all of the following:
(1) Improve pupil learning by creating schools with rigorous academic standards in all basic areas of instruction for high pupil performance;
(2) Increase learning opportunities for all pupils, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for pupils who are identified as educationally disadvantaged and at-risk;
(3) Encourage the use of innovative teaching methods;
(4) Create opportunities for teachers, including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the school site;
(5) Provide parents and pupils with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system;
(6) Hold the schools established under this chapter accountable for meeting publicly promulgated, measurable, state and charter-based pupil academic results, and provide the schools with a method to implement performance-based and/or other student-based accountability systems, while providing a means to restrict the expansion of ineffective charter public schools; and
(7) Encourage parental and community involvement with public schools.
(d) No private or parochial schools shall be eligible for charter public school status, nor shall a charter public school be affiliated in any way with a sectarian school or religious institution. Any charter public school authorized by this chapter shall be nonsectarian and nonreligious in its programs, admissions policies, employment practices, and all other operations. The board of regents shall not approve a charter to a school whose overall operation or education program is managed by a for profit entity.
(e) The commissioner is empowered to promulgate rules and regulations consistent with this chapter, in conformance with chapter 35 of title 42, for the creation and operation of charter public schools. These rules and regulations shall set forth the process for rescission of state approval of a charter public school, including appropriate protections to ensure the continued provision of education services to the students of the charter public school whose charter is rescinded.
(f) All charter public schools shall adhere to financial record keeping, reporting, auditing requirements, and procedures as required by the Rhode Island department of education and in accordance with federal and state laws and regulations.
(g) No more than thirty-five (35) charters shall be granted. At least one-half (1/2) of the total number of charter public schools in the state shall be reserved for charter school applications which are designed to increase the educational opportunities for at-risk pupils.
(P.L. 2010, ch. 84, § 3; P.L. 2010, ch. 107, § 3.)