Planning Your Charter School – Steps to Start a Charter School

how to start a charter school

Charter schools are independently run from local state or district school; however, they are still required to abide the local and state academic standards. You can start a charter school and provide a cutting-edge option for education to students. However, you should first have the penchant for educating students and paving a bright future for them. Starting a school needs extensive planning because it is not easy to teach right and make profit simultaneously. Therefore, if you are keen to start a charter school, go on to read more about the process.

What is a Charter School and How it is Different from Other Public Schools

Charter school offers greater flexibility than public schools, regarding mode of operations. The school runs under the charter terms between the local school district and the state board of education. Certain rules and regulations are not applicable to these schools in the exchange of greater emphasis on school-based leadership and decision-making.

Charter schools can be chosen instead of public schools. Charter schools, though operate with freedom, will be held accountable for academic performances and for fulfilling the promises they made in their charters.

They have to maintain their standard and uphold their promises in all three divisions, namely academic results, finance, and organizational stability. You can choose from several types of charter schools, for each varies in design and purpose. Anyone can start a charter school; there is no restriction. The only criterion is that if the school fails to meet its set goals, the state charter authorizing entity will close it down.

Step 1: Learn the Charter Laws

First, you have to find out if you are permitted to start a charter school in your state. Most states have a limited number of entries for a charter school. Your location may also determine if you are allowed to open one based on capacity limits. For the best information, look up the internet for charter school laws in your region.

In addition to the capacity limitations, some states even have laws on the type of charter schools allowed. Therefore, you also have to find out what kind of public charter school is operable in your area.

Step 2: Making a Business Plan

Starting a charter school generally takes a lot of time and dedication. If you are up for all the errands and for all the frustrating times, then begin your process by designing a solid business plan. Your first step should be putting together a big team of expert professionals who will make the charter school possible. You will need professionals from the following set of skills: real estate planning, building engineering, operational management, law, financial planning and aid, leadership, and education.

Once you have your committee formed, you should all sit together to plan the business, from budgeting through acquiring the right resources to strategizing growth and marketing. Write down your mission statement. Your mission and core values should be clear enough to the extent that each process achieved should take you one step closer to your mission statement. Your mission statement should express the goals and aspirations of the school you intend to achieve, and the school’s overall purpose.

Step 3: Draft Your Concept

You have to think of why you want to start a charter school. The primary purpose of starting a charter school usually is to provide the community with an education system, which does not currently exist. To meet this purpose, you have to think about those aspects that are missing from current public schools in your city, area, or state. You have to also think about ways to incorporate those aspects into your school. Certain elements that you can consider include:

  • Things that should be included in the school curriculum but are not included in public schools
  • What could be done differently to meet the state’s standard of education? How can one enhance the teaching standards
  • What kind of academic opportunities can you provide to the students? Probably new language lessons, or fine arts or anything relevant.

Step 4: Establish Your Board Members

Before you begin the paperwork, you’ll need a board of members who will decide how the board and school should function. Your board of members should work in harmony and avoid fights and quarrels (this is very important for the success of your school). Make sure you are well accustomed with the people who become part of the governance board. Most charter schools consist of around 7 to 11 members, professionals from different walks of life. Your board of members should comprise of expertise from real estate, legal services, educational field, human resource, marketing, brand management, finance and fundraising, programming, and facilities management.

Make sure your board members can fill in your weaknesses and enhance your strengths. They should be capable enough to govern the school, such as enforcing legal actions and creating academic goals.

Step 5: Determine Your Budget

Your budget will determine how well your charter school business will do and how your money will be spent in the operations. The board members should advise you about how to raise funds and how to use those funds. Make sure you are holding the student’s future interest when determining the budget. Work with the legal professional or an accountant from the board to develop the finance proposal for bank loan application. You will also need a good cash flow projection and a detailed budget plan for the next five years of operations. Before you send the necessary documents to the bank for a loan, make sure all of the board members review the budget plan and finance proposal.

Step 6: Choose Your School Location

You have to find a spot that is ripening with demand for schools. You need marketing sense and some degree of innovation to find and secure a good location or facility for a charter school. Here are some tips to search for a suitable location:

  • Choose a central location that will be convenient for students and their parents
  • Look for properties that used to be house schools, convertible retail spaces or any multi-use facility
  • Choose a place that doesn’t have any other competition nearby
  • Unless your charter application is accepted and the loan amount is approved, do not make any down payment.

Step 7: Abide to State Specific Guidelines

Since charter school laws vary from state to state, it becomes essential for you to know your state specific guidelines, rules, regulations, and deadlines. You can find out the required information when processing your charter school application or you can look up the website of the Department of Education. Make sure you pay close attention to the forms, applications, and deadlines as these will most likely be special to the charter school of your state in particular. Make sure you are familiar with the state’s charter school legislation and their requirements, objectives, and purpose.

Step 8: Submit Your Letter of Intent

The letter of intent is very crucial. The letter of intent states the planning and design of the school project, identifies the board of members and any partner organizations you have lined-up, initiatives and community support for the school, and other projections and estimates with regards to your school. Depending upon the guidelines and requirement outlined by the state, you will have to write down and submit a letter of intent. The requirement will vary based on your location, and you may have to submit the letter either to the local school district, the state’s department of education or the local charter school office.

Step 9: Wait for the Authorization

Once you have submitted the needed materials for processing the application, the wait begins for authorization. Chances of approval are greater than rejection, provided you have abided the rules and regulations and the norms. The local school district oversees and approves most of the applications. However, if in case, your application is rejected for uncertain reasons, you can send your application to the state. If you do not want your application to be rejected, make sure, you don’t:

  • Have an impractical educational program
  • Fail at addressing the conditions and guidelines set by the state or town charter school
  • Show your weaknesses or inability to run the business successfully
  • Fail meeting the educational requirements laid by the local school of district, county or state
  • Propose an irrational and unsound mission statement
  • Doesn’t serve the community purpose

Once your school has approved, your actual process of forming the school begins. You have to start hiring staffs, management, and other faculties. Begin with a principal and department head. Once you have hired a sound first level staff, move on to hiring the rest of the faculty. To make recruiting effective, have the applicants teach a sample lesson for evaluation. Make sure you pay close attention to the history of each applicant. Conduct a background check on discipline.

And finally, when the school is blooming with the required staff and management, capable of taking it forward, open your school for enrolment.

Erecting a school is one of the hardest business start-ups you can ever come up with, especially now. Nevertheless, it could be a great way to earn four times over. The only tip is to keep your doors open for new ways of learning, education and expanding. Have doubts? Ask in comments for clarification.