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H 3388
Session 111 (1995-1996) 

H 3388 General Bill, By Richardson, R.J. Herdklotz, M.F. Jaskwhich, T.F. Rogers, 
Stille, Stuart, D.C. Waldrop and D.A. Wright
 A Bill to amend Title 59, Code of Laws of South Carolina, 1976, relating to
 education, by adding Chapter 40 so as to enact the "South Carolina Charter
 Schools Act of 1995" including provisions which provide for the manner in
 which charter schools are established, funded, and operated.

   01/25/95  House  Introduced and read first time HJ-22
   01/25/95  House  Referred to Committee on Education and Public
                     Works HJ-22



A BILL

TO AMEND TITLE 59, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO EDUCATION, BY ADDING CHAPTER 40 SO AS TO ENACT THE "SOUTH CAROLINA CHARTER SCHOOLS ACT OF 1995" INCLUDING PROVISIONS WHICH PROVIDE FOR THE MANNER IN WHICH CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE ESTABLISHED, FUNDED, AND OPERATED.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION 1. Title 59 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

"CHAPTER 40

Charter Schools

Section 59-40-10. This chapter is known and may be cited as the `South Carolina Charter Schools Act of 1995'.

Section 59-40-20. The General Assembly finds:

(A) It is the obligation of all South Carolinians to provide all children with schools that reflect high expectations and create conditions in all schools where these expectations can be met. (B) Education reform is in the best interests of the State in order to strengthen the performance of elementary and secondary public school pupils, that the best education decisions are made by those who know the students best and who are responsible for implementing the decisions and therefore, that educators and parents have a right and a responsibility to participate in the education institutions which serve them.

(C) Different pupils learn differently and public school programs should be designed to fit the needs of individual pupils, both those who are particularly talented and those who are `at risk'. There are educators, citizens, and parents in South Carolina who are willing and able to offer innovative programs, educational techniques, and environments but who lack a channel through which they can direct their efforts.

Section 59-40-30. This chapter is enacted to:

(A) enhance learning opportunities in school communities across the State by ensuring schools have rigorous standards for pupil commitment to performance;

(B) encourage diverse approaches to learning and education and the use of innovative, appropriate teaching methods;

(C) create the flexibility to develop innovative and new appropriate forms of measuring pupil learning and achievement;

(D) create new professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the school site;

(E) provide parents and pupils with expanded choices in the types of education opportunities that are available within the public school system;

(F) encourage parental and community involvement with public schools, and to encourage public schools to interact more constructively with their parents and community;

(G) establish new forms of accountability for students, parents, teachers, and schools which together enhance a demand for quality education and continuous improvement in their results.

Section 59-40-40. In authorizing charter schools, it is the intent of the General Assembly to create a legitimate avenue for parents, teachers, and community members to take responsible risks and create new, innovative, and more flexible ways of educating all children within the public school system. The General Assembly seeks to create an atmosphere in South Carolina's public school systems where research and development in producing different learning opportunities is actively pursued and where classroom teachers are given the flexibility to innovate and the responsibility to be accountable. As such, the provisions of this chapter should be interpreted liberally to support the findings and goals of this chapter and to advance a renewed commitment by the State of South Carolina to the mission, goals, and diversity of public education.

Section 59-40-50. As used in this chapter:

(A) A `charter school' means a public, nonsectarian, nonreligious, nonhome-based, nonprofit school which operates within a public school district, but is accountable to either the South Carolina Board of Education, or the local school board of trustees of that district, whichever grants its charter.

(B) A charter school:

(1) is considered a public school and part of the school district in which it is located for the purposes of state law and the state constitution;

(2) is subject to all federal and state laws and constitutional provisions prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, gender, national origin, religion, ancestry, or need for special education services. Enrollment must be open to any child who resides within the school district;

(3) must be administered and governed by a governing body in a manner agreed to by the charter school applicant and the approving body;

(4) shall not charge tuition.

(C) `Applicant' means the person who desires to form a charter school and files the necessary application therefor with the approving body. The applicant also must be the person who applies to the Secretary of State to organize the charter school as a nonprofit corporation.

(D) `Approving body' means the governing body, either the local school board of trustees or the State Board of Education, from which the charter school applicant requested its charter, and which granted approval for the charter school's existence.

(E) `At risk' means a student who, because of physical, emotional, socioeconomic, or cultural factors, is less likely to succeed in a conventional educational environment.

(F) `Certified teacher' means a person certified by the State of South Carolina to teach in a public elementary or secondary school. (G) `Charter committee' means the governing body of a charter school and also shall be the board of directors of the nonprofit corporation which must be organized.

(H) `Department' means the State Department of Education.

(I) `Local school board of trustees' means the local school district board of trustees of the district in which the charter school is located.

(J) `State board' means the State Board of Education.

(K) `Teacher' means a person granted a certificate by the State of South Carolina as provided by law to teach in a public elementary or secondary school, or an individual considered appropriately qualified for the subject matter taught, and who has been approved by the charter committee of the school.

Section 59-40-60. (A) Except as otherwise provided in this section and Section 59-40-70 or 59-40-140, a charter school is exempt from all provisions of laws and regulations applicable to a public school, a school board, or a district, although a charter school may elect to comply with one or more of these provisions of law or regulations.

(B) A charter school shall:

(1) adhere to the same health and safety requirements as are applied to public schools operating in the same school district;

(2) adhere to the same financial audits, audit procedures, and audit requirements as are applied to public schools operating in the same school district;

(3) be considered a school district for purposes of tort liability. Employees of charter schools shall be relieved of personal liability for any tort or contract related to their school to the same extent that employees of traditional public schools in their school district are relieved;

(4) not hire noncertified teachers in a ratio which is higher than twenty percent of its entire teacher staff. Part-time noncertified teachers shall be considered pro rata in calculating this percentage based on the hours which they are expected to teach. All noncertified teachers shall teach under the supervision of a certified teacher or administrator;

(5) except for a foreign exchange student who is not a United States citizen, not enroll a pupil who is not a resident of this State. Enrollment shall be open to all pupils who reside in the school district in which the school exists. If there are more applications to enroll in the charter school than there are spaces available, pupils shall be selected using a random selection process. However, a charter school may give enrollment priority to a sibling of a pupil already enrolled. A charter school may give enrollment priority to any pupil who was previously enrolled as a pupil at the school, unless the appropriate grade or curriculum is not offered.

Section 59-40-70. (A) An approved charter application constitutes an agreement, and the terms shall be the terms of a contract between the charter school and the approving body.

(B) The contract between the charter school and the approving body shall reflect all agreements regarding the release of the charter school from local school district policies or state regulations.

(C) A material revision of the terms of the contract between the charter school and the approving board may be made only with the approval of both parties.

(D) Except as provided in subsection (E), an applicant who wishes to form a charter school shall:

(1) organize the charter school as a nonprofit corporation under the laws of this State;

(2) elect a charter committee for the charter school;

(3) submit a written charter school application to either the State Board of Education or the local school board of trustees for the school district in which the charter school will be located.

(E) The charter school application shall be a proposed agreement and shall include:

(1) the mission statement of the charter school, which must be consistent with the principles of the General Assembly's purposes as set forth in Section 59-40-30;

(2) the goals, objectives, and pupil achievement standards to be achieved by the charter school;

(3) evidence that an adequate number of parents, teachers, pupils, or any combination thereof support the formation of a charter school;

(4) a description of the charter school's educational program, pupil achievement standards, and curriculum, which must meet or exceed any content standards adopted by the school district in which the charter school is located and must be designed to enable each pupil to achieve these standards;

(5) a description of the charter school's plan for evaluating pupil achievement, the types of assessments that shall be used to measure pupil progress towards accomplishment of the school's pupil achievement standards, the timeline for achievement of these standards, and the procedures for taking corrective action in the event that pupil achievement at the charter school falls below the standards;

(6) a description of the charter school's plan for evaluating teacher performance, the types of assessments that shall be used to measure teacher progress towards achievement of the school's teacher performance standards, the timeline for achievement of these standards, and the procedure for taking corrective action in the event that teacher performance at the charter school falls below the standards;

(7) evidence that the plan for the charter school is economically sound, a proposed budget for the term of the charter, a description of the manner in which an annual audit of the financial and administrative operations of the charter school, including any services provided by the school district, is to be conducted;

(8) a description of the governance and operation of the charter school, including the nature and extent of parental, professional educator, and community involvement in the governance and operation of the charter school, as well as a description of the admissions policies;

(9) an explanation of the relationship that shall exist between the proposed charter school and its employees, including evidence that the terms and conditions of employment have been addressed with affected employees;

(10) an agreement between the parties regarding their respective legal liability and applicable insurance coverage;

(11) a description of how the charter school plans to meet the transportation needs of its pupils;

(12) a description of the planned facilities of the charter school and how such facilities shall be obtained.

(F) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent a charter school in a school district which is comprised of only one school or type of school, be it elementary or secondary.

Section 59-40-80. (A) The approving body may establish a schedule for receiving applications from charter schools and shall make a copy of any schedule available to all interested parties upon request. If the approving body finds the charter school application is incomplete, it immediately shall request the necessary information from the charter applicant.

(B) After giving reasonable pubic notice, the approving body shall hold community meetings in the affected areas or the entire school district to obtain information to assist it in their decision to grant a charter school application. The approving body shall rule on the application for a charter school in a public hearing, upon reasonable public notice, within sixty days after receiving the application. If there is no ruling within sixty days, the application is considered approved.

(C) If the approving body is a local school board of trustees, it shall only deny an application if the application does not meet the requirements specified in Section 59-40-60 or 59-40-70. It shall provide, within five days, a written explanation of the reasons for denial, citing specific provisions of Section 59-40-60 or 59-40-70 that the application violates. This written explanation immediately shall be sent to the charter committee and filed with the State Board of Education.

(D) If the approving body is a local school board of trustees, and it denies a charter school application, the charter applicant may appeal the denial to the State Board of Education pursuant to Section 59-40-90 or may amend its application to conform with the reasons for denial and reapply to the approving body, which has thirty days to approve or deny the application.

(E) If the approving body is a local school board of trustees and approves the application, it becomes the charter school's sponsor and shall sign the charter application with the charter committee of the charter school. A copy of the charter shall be filed with the State Board of Education.

Section 59-40-90 (A) The State Board of Education, upon receipt of a notice of appeal or upon its own motion, shall review a decision of any approving body which is a local school board of trustees concerning charter schools in accordance with the provisions of this section.

(B) A charter applicant or any other person who wishes to appeal an adverse decision shall provide the State Board of Education and the local school board of trustees with a notice of appeal within thirty days of the local board's decision.

(C) If the notice of appeal or the motion to review by the State Board of Education relates to a local board's decision to deny, refuse to renew, or revoke a charter, the appeal and review process shall be:

(1) within thirty days after receipt of the notice of appeal or the making of a motion to review by the State Board of Education and after reasonable public notice, the State Board of Education, at a public hearing which may be held in the district where the proposed charter school is located, shall review the decision of the local school board of trustees and make its findings known. If the State Board of Education finds that the local school board's decision was contrary to this chapter, it shall remand the decision to the local board of trustees with written instructions for reconsideration. These instructions shall include specific recommendations concerning the matters requiring reconsideration;

(2) within thirty days following the remand of a decision to the local board of trustees and with reasonable public notice, the local school board of trustees, at a public hearing, shall reconsider its decision and make a final decision;

(3) if the local school board of trustees' final decision is still to deny, refuse to renew, or revoke a charter, a second notice of appeal may be filed with the State Board of Education within thirty days following this final decision;

(4) within thirty days following receipt of the second notice of appeal or the making of a motion for a second review by the State Board of Education, and after reasonable public notice, at a public hearing it shall determine whether the final decision of the local school board of trustees was contrary to this chapter. If such a finding is made, the State Board of Education shall remand the final decision to the local board with instructions to approve or renew the charter application. The decision of the State Board of Education shall be final and not subject to appeal or review by the courts.

Section 59-40-100. (A) An existing public school may be converted into a charter school if two-thirds of the faculty and instructional staff employed at the school, two-thirds of all parents or legal guardians of students enrolled in the school, and a majority of the members of the school board for the district in which the school is located agree to the filing of an application with the State Board of Education for the conversion and formation of that school into a charter school. The application shall be submitted by the principal of that school or his designee who shall be deemed the applicant. The application shall include all information required of other applications under this chapter. The State Board of Education shall approve or disapprove this application in the same manner it approves or disapproves other applications.

(B) If the application for a conversion of an existing public school identifies existing school facilities to be occupied by the charter school, the school district in which the charter school is located shall allow the charter school to convert those school facilities to the use of the charter school, as specified in the application. The school district and the charter school shall enter into a lease agreement charging a reasonable rent for the facilities. If the parties cannot agree to reasonable rent within ninety days after all required votes for conversion have been conducted and the application filed, each party shall choose an appraiser, who together shall choose a third appraiser, and the appraisers shall determine a reasonable rent by majority vote. The determination of the appraisers is final and binding on the parties. Each party shall bear its own costs for this process. The lease agreement shall specify the party that has financial liability for all utilities, maintenance, improvements, and other costs for the facilities occupied by the charter school.

(C) A converted charter school and the school district shall enter into a contract or cooperative arrangement concerning reasonable general liability insurance for the charter school.

(D) A converted charter school shall offer at least the same grades, or nongraded education appropriate for the same ages and education levels of pupils, as offered by the school immediately before conversion, and also may provide additional grades and further educational offerings.

Section 59-40-110. (A) A charter may be approved or renewed for a period not to exceed three school years.

(B) A charter renewal application shall be submitted to the school's original approving body, and it shall contain:

(1) a report on the progress of the charter school in achieving the goals, objectives, pupil achievement standards, content standards, and other terms of the initial approved charter application; and

(2) a financial statement that discloses the costs of administration, instruction, and other spending categories for the charter school that is understandable to the general public and that will allow comparison of these costs to other schools or other comparable organizations, in a format required by the State Board of Education.

(C) A charter may be revoked or not renewed by the original approving body if it determines that the charter school:

(1) committed a material violation of the conditions, standards, or procedures set forth in the charter application;

(2) failed to meet or make reasonable progress toward achievement of the content standards or pupil achievement standards identified in the charter application;

(3) failed to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management; or

(4) violated any provision of law from which the charter school was not specifically exempted.

(D) In addition, a charter may not be renewed upon a determination by the original approving body that it is demonstrably not in the interest of the pupils residing within the school district to continue the operation of the charter school.

(E) A decision to revoke or not to renew a charter if made by the local school board of trustees may be appealed pursuant to the provisions of Section 59-40-90.

Section 59-40-120. Upon dissolution of a charter school, its assets may not inure to the benefit of any private person and must be distributed in the manner required by the South Carolina Nonprofit Corporation Act of 1994.

Section 59-40-130. (A) Teachers at public schools within the district where the charter school is located may be employed by the charter school, and upon the teacher's request must be granted a one-year leave of absence by the school district to teach at the charter school. During the first year that a teacher employed by a school district is employed by a charter school, this teacher shall be considered to be on a one-year leave of absence from the school district. This leave of absence commences on the first day of services for the charter school. Upon the request of the teacher, the one-year leave of absence shall be renewed for not more than two additional one-year periods upon the mutual agreement of the teacher and the school district. At the end of three years, the relationship between the teacher and the school district shall be determined by the school district and the district shall provide notice to the teacher of the relationship.

(B) During a leave of absence, the teacher's seniority and vesting rights shall continue to accrue, and the teacher's insurance, retirement, and other fringe benefits shall continue in effect so long as the charter school and the teacher reimburse the local school board of trustees for the required employee and employer contributions. Employment at a charter school counts as creditable service under the state retirement system and as creditable state service for other applicable provisions of law.

(C) The local school board of trustees shall determine by policy the employment status of school district employees employed by the charter school who seek to return to employment with public schools in the school district. At the very least, the employment status of any returning employees shall be equal to the status which existed when the leave of absence was taken, and employees who take a leave of absence to work with a charter school must be offered reemployment by the district at a compensation level and with a job description at least equal to what they had before their leave of absence with the charter school.

Section 59-40-140. (A) Pupils enrolled in a charter school shall be included in the pupil enrollment of the district within which the pupil resides. The school district of residence shall report to the State Department of Education the number of pupils included in that school district's pupil enrollment that are actually enrolled in each charter school.

(B) Each student in the district shall be credited with an equal amount of funding for his or her education, subject to appropriate student-based cost formulas. Like students shall be funded identically regardless whether they attend a charter school or a traditional public school in the same district. This funding shall be calculated based on the total state and local funding which is available to the district, including all administrative, transportation, and other types of funding allocations. The State Department of Education shall determine the amount of state funds to which the charter school is entitled and shall direct the appropriate state officials to transmit these funds to the charter school and these officials shall comply with this directive. The treasurer of the county in which the charter school is located shall determine the amount of local funds to which the charter school is entitled and shall transmit these funds to the charter school. Charter schools which self-administer shall make no contribution to a district's administrative expenditures. Charter schools which self-transport shall receive state funds which are equivalent to the per-student funding for transportation which is spent by the State Department of Education in the local school district.

(C) Notwithstanding subsection (B), the proportionate share of state and federal resources generated by students with disabilities or staff serving them shall be directed to charter schools enrolling these students with disabilities or staff serving them shall be directed to charter schools enrolling the students by their school districts. The proportionate share of funds generated under other federal or state categorical aid programs shall be directed to charter schools serving students eligible for the aid.

(D) No charter school is required to issue a contract to a person or entity. All charter school contracts shall be issued on a competitive basis taking into consideration the resources available for the proposed school, the population to be served, and the educational goals to be obtained.

(E) All services centrally or otherwise provided by the school district, if any, including, but not limited to, food services, custodial services, maintenance, curriculum, media services, libraries, and warehousing are subject to negotiation between a charter school and the school district.

(F) All awards, grants, or gifts collected by a charter school shall be retained by the charter school.

(G) The governing body of a charter school is authorized to accept gifts, donations, or grants of any kind made to the charter school and to expend or use the gifts, donations, or grants in accordance with the conditions prescribed by the donor. However, no gift, donation, or grant may be accepted by the governing board if subject to any condition contrary to law or contrary to the terms of the contract between the charter school and the governing body.

(H) The State Board of Education shall prepare an annual report and evaluation for the Governor and the General Assembly on the performance of charter schools, their relationship to other school reform efforts, and suggested changes in state law necessary to strengthen or change the charter school program.

(I) The approving body shall provide technical assistance to persons and groups preparing or revising charter applications at no expense.

(J) Charter schools may acquire by gift, devise, purchase, lease, sublease, installment purchase agreement, land contract, option, or by any other means, hold and own in its own name buildings or other property for school purposes, and interests in it which is necessary or convenient to fulfill its purposes.

(K) Charter schools are exempt from all state and local taxation on their earnings and property. Instruments of conveyance to or from a charter school are exempt from all types of taxation of local or state taxes and transfer fees.

Section 59-40-150. (A) The State Board of Education shall compile evaluations of charter schools received from local school boards of trustees. They shall review information regarding the regulations and policies from which charter schools were released to determine if the releases assisted or impeded the charter schools in meeting their stated goals and objectives.

(B) The State Board of Education shall issue a report to the General Assembly on its findings no later than July 1, 1998.

(C) In preparing the report required by this section, the State Board of Education shall compare the performance of charter school pupils with the performance of ethnically and economically comparable groups of pupils in other public schools who are enrolled in academically comparable courses.

Section 59-40-160. (A) The charter schools stimulus fund is established as a separate fund within the state general fund for the purpose of providing financial support to charter school applicants and charter schools for start-up costs and costs associated with renovating or remodeling existing buildings and structures. The fund may consist of grants, gifts, devises, and donations from any public or private source or monies that may be appropriated by the General Assembly for this purpose. The State Treasurer shall invest the funds in the fund in the same manner of other funds under his control are invested. The State Department of Education shall administer and authorize any disbursements from the fund.

(B) The State Board of Education shall promulgate regulations to implement the provisions of this section, including application and notification requirements. If sufficient funds are appropriated or available for this purpose, funds from the charter schools' stimulus fund may be distributed to qualifying charter school applicants and charter schools in the following manner.

(1) Each qualifying charter school applicant or charter school may be awarded an initial grant not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars during or before the first year of the charter school's operation. If an applicant for a charter school receives an initial grant pursuant to this item and fails to begin operating a charter school within the next twelve months, the applicant shall reimburse the Department of Education for the amount of the initial grant plus interest calculated at a rate of ten percent per annum.

(2) Applicants for charter schools and charter schools that received initial grants pursuant to item (1) may apply to the State Department of Education for an additional grant not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars. If an applicant for a charter school receives an additional grant pursuant to this item and fails to begin operating a charter school within the next twelve months, the applicant shall reimburse the Department of Education for the amount of the additional grant plus interest calculated at a rate of ten percent per annum. A reimbursement required by this item is in addition to any reimbursement required by item (1).

(C) Funds in the charter schools stimulus fund and the earnings thereon shall be carried forward from fiscal year to fiscal year and are not subject to any provisions of law relating to lapsed funds or appropriations.

Section 59-40-170. The State Department of Education, in conjunction with the Budget and Control Board, shall publish annually a list of vacant and unused buildings and vacant and unused portions of buildings that are owned by this State or by school districts in this State and that may be suitable for the operation of a charter school. The State Department of Education shall make the list available to applicants for charter schools and to existing charter schools. The list shall include the address of each building, a short description of the building, and the name of the owner of the building. Nothing in this section requires the owner of a building on the list to sell or lease the building or a portion of the building to a charter school or to any other school or to any other prospective buyer or tenant.

Section 59-40-180. The State Board of Education may promulgate regulations necessary to implement the provisions of this chapter."

SECTION 2. This act takes effect July 1, 1995.

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