Charter School Founders & Operators

The details of charter school creation and day-to-day operation fall to the school's "founder" or "organizer."

Any nonprofit, non-religious organization can apply to operate a charter school in response to a request for proposals issued by a charter school authorizer -- either the Maine Charter School Commission or a local school board. (See the Charter School Authorizers page for more information.)

A charter school founder can seek to create a new charter school or convert an existing public school to a public charter school.

Click on the links below to access information on the following topics:

Applying to Start a Charter School

A potential charter school founder must respond to an authorizer's request for proposals with an application that outlines the student population and communities targeted by its proposed school; organizational, governance and financial plans; student and staff policies; and the proposed school’s academic program.

An applicant seeking to convert an existing public school to a charter school must meet the above requirements and demonstrate widespread community support for the conversion plan. The applicant must provide two petitions along with its application: one signed by a majority of the school's teachers and the other signed by a majority of the students' parents.

If the public school in question is the only education option for local students, the school administrative unit's voters must approve the school's conversion to charter status. The local school board with oversight of the school in question serves as the authorizer in this circumstance.

As requests for proposals become available, the Maine Department of Education will publish them to this website. The Department of Education will also publish to this site, when available, a list of local school boards interested in authorizing public charter schools.

Relationship with Authorizer

A public charter school is accountable to the terms of the contract, or charter, it negotiates with its authorizer.

The charter school operator must adhere to the performance expectations and responsibilities outlined in the contract or risk nonrenewal of the charter after its initial period.

Refer to the Charter School Authorizers page for a summary of the authorizer's responsibilities under the law.

Enrollment

A charter school must accept any Maine resident student who applies to attend and falls within the school's age or grade range, unless the school or a particular grade level at the school has reached its enrollment capacity.

When a charter school receives applications from more students than it can accommodate, the school must choose by lottery -- or by some other random fashion -- which students can attend.

While charter schools cannot set admission standards, the following exceptions apply:

  • A charter school formed by converting a traditional public school to a charter school must give enrollment preference to the students who reside in the former attendance area of the noncharter public school.
  • A charter school must give enrollment preference to students who already attend the school and to their siblings.
  • A charter school can give preference to the children of the charter school's founders, governing board members and full-time employees, though no more than 10 percent of a school's students can receive priority under this provision.
  • During its first three years of operation, a charter school not authorized by a local school board can enroll no more than 5 percent of students from a single school administrative unit of 500 or fewer students. Such a school can enroll no more than 10 percent of students from a single unit of more than 500 students.

Funding

The information in this section is meant to offer an overview of funding for charter schools, and not to determine a particular rate of funding for an individual charter school.

Maine's public charter schools receive funding based on the number of students they enroll. For each student attending a charter school, the student's home school administrative unit transfers a per-pupil allocation to the charter school. The home school unit is able to reserve up to 1 percent of the per-pupil amount to cover administrative costs.

The charter school law also specifies that a charter school is eligible for federal funds, including Title I. This provision, however, needs to be clarified through rulemaking and/or statutory changes to the law.

For each resident student attending a charter school, the home school unit transfers the following to the charter school:

  1. The resident unit's EPS per-pupil rate, an amount determined by Maine's Essential Programs and Services school funding formula. This amount -- not to be confused with "Resident Per-Pupil Operating Costs” and “Tuition Rates” -- varies by unit. The average per-pupil rate for the 2011-12 academic year is $6,254 for elementary students and $6,705 for secondary students. The highest per-pupil rate is $7,192 for elementary students and $7,588 for secondary students.
  2. If the student attending the charter school is economically disadvantaged, or has Limited English Proficiency, add the following amounts to the per-pupil rate:
    • 15 percent of the EPS rate for an economically disadvantaged student.
    • Between 50 and 70 percent of the EPS rate for a student with Limited English Proficiency. The amount added depends on the number of students in the unit with Limited English Proficiency.
  3. If the following expenses apply to the charter school, add the corresponding amounts to the per-pupil rate.
    • Assessment costs: Each year, the Department of Education determines a per-student amount for each school unit to cover the cost of state-required assessments. For 2011-12, the amount is $43 per student.
    • Technology costs: Each year, the Department of Education determines a per-student amount for each school unit to cover the cost of technology. For 2011-12, the amount is $97 for every K-8 pupil and $293 per secondary pupil.
    • Costs of PreK-to-Grade-2 programs: An additional 10 percent of the school unit's EPS per-pupil rate.
  4. A portion of funding for qualified Gifted and Talented programming, and for Career and Technical Education costs. These amounts are to be determined by the Department of Education.
  5. If the student is eligible for special education services, include an additional amount between 120 and 140 percent of the EPS per-pupil rate. The exact level is determined by the Department of Education. For 2011-12, the amount is 127.8 percent of the EPS per-pupil rate. Schools are eligible to receive additional amounts if:
    • More than 15 percent of the students in the home school unit are special education students;
    • The cost of providing appropriate services to an individual student exceeds three times the statewide average special education EPS per-pupil rate;
    • The home school unit has fewer than 20 special education students;
    • An out-of-district placement for the special education student costs more than four times the statewide average special education EPS per-pupil rate; or
    • Additional funding is needed to meet federal maintenance of effort requirements under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA.
  6. The resident unit's average per-pupil transportation cost.

The following example illustrates the amount of funding a school administrative unit must transfer to a charter school for the following conditions:

  • A second-grade student resides in Anytown, and attends a charter school in Othertown;
  • The school year is 2011-12;
  • The student is economically disadvantaged and has Limited English Proficiency;
  • Anytown school administrative unit’s elementary student EPS per-pupil rate is $6,075;
  • Anytown SAU has between 15 and 250 students with Limited English Proficiency; and
  • Anytown SAU’s per-pupil transportation cost is $520.
Calculating a Charter School's Per-Student Funding
Funding Category Calculation Amount
EPS Elementary Per-Pupil Rate - $6,075.00
Disadvantaged Student Allowance 0.15 x $6,075.00 $911.25
Limited English Proficiency Allowance 0.50 x $6,075.00 $3,037.50
Targeted Elementary Technology Allowance - $97.00
Targeted Assessment Allowance - $43.00
Targeted PreK-2 Allowance 0.10 x $6,075.00 $607.50
Per-Pupil Transportation Rate - $520.00
Subtotal - $11,291.25
Administrative Withholding by SAU 0.01 x $11,291.25 ($112.91)
Total - $11,178.34*

*This amount does not include allowances meant to cover Gifted and Talented and Career and Technical Education programming costs, which are determined by the Department of Education and might not apply to every circumstance.

Staffing

All staff members working in Maine's public charter schools must be fingerprinted through the Maine State Police and undergo criminal background checks.

A full-time teacher in a public charter school must meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • The teacher must hold a teaching certificate that corresponds with the appropriate grade level and subject area taught.
  • The teacher must become certified to teach in Maine with three years of the date of hire.
  • The teacher must have an advanced degree, professional certification or unique expertise or experience in the curricular area in which he or she teaches.

Public charter school administrators are not required to be certified.

The employees of a public charter school have the same rights to bargain collectively as teachers in noncharter public schools. If they form a union, however, the bargaining unit must be separate from any existing unit.

Facilities

Maine's charter school law authorizes no specific state funds to pay for the construction and maintenance of charter school facilities. The law, however, does allow charter school operators the right of first refusal for school buildings that are being sold or leased by a school district from which the charter school draws students.

Charter school buildings must meet largely the same requirements as school buildings for noncharter public schools.

The buildings must meet local building codes, including fire, safety and handicapped-access requirements. The municipality in which the school is located (or the county, if the school is located in an unorganized territory) has jurisdiction over inspection of the facility and issuing a certificate of occupancy.

Charter schools are also subject to health and safety laws, meaning provisions regulating air quality standards and chemical use apply to charter school buildings.

Transportation

A public charter school must have a plan that describes how it will meet the transportation needs of its students.

As discussed in the funding section of this page, a charter school receives a per-pupil allowance to cover transportation costs.

Special Education

A public charter school must allow special education students to attend. Maine law prohibits the discrimination against students for enrollment purposes on the basis of mental or physical disabilities. A charter school must see to it that students requiring special education services are provided those services in a manner consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Under current law, a charter school authorized by the Charter School Commission is responsible itself for providing and funding special education services. If a charter school is authorized by a school board or group of school boards, the authorizer is responsible for providing and funding special education services.

Resources for Charter School Founders and Operators

Maine Resources

National Resources