What is a Charter School?
Charter schools are public schools and may provide instruction in any of grades K-12. A charter school is generally created or organized by a group of teachers, parents and community leaders or a community-based organization, and is usually sponsored by an existing local public school board or county board of education. Specific goals and operating procedures for the charter school are detailed in an agreement (or "charter") between the sponsoring board and charter organizers.
Charter schools are exempt from most of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools in exchange for accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each school’s charter. Charter schools are opened and attended by choice. As a part of the public school system, they are not allowed to charge tuition, must be non-sectarian, and may not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, or disability. When applications exceed enrollment, students may be admitted by lottery. However, schools can establish priority admissions in order to serve the communities in which they are located.
The seven schools in the Palisades Charter Schools Complex became “conversion” charters in 1995. Each was an LAUSD school that chose to apply for a charter in order to gain greater autonomy over hiring, curriculum, enrollment, staff development, etc. At the time of this transition, the schools became “affiliated” charter schools, still financially dependent on LAUSD for their funding, and as a result, still bound by many LAUSD policies. In 2003, Palisades Charter High submitted it petition to become an “independent” charter, receiving its funding directly from the state and federal governments and gaining complete autonomy over its educational program.
Independent vs Affiiliated
Independent charters receive the fullest autonomy and flexibility permitted by the law but no organizational support from the District. Independent charters must provide their own administrative functions, including human resources, employee benefits, finance, payroll, accounting, and facilities. Palisades High School staff are represented by unions but they constitute their own collective bargaining units and thus are not constrained (except by choice) by the union negotiations with LAUSD. By contrast, affiliated charters are “semiautonomous conversion charter schools that are funded and function similarly to traditional district schools.” In LAUSD, affiliated charters adhere to district policy except for specific areas described in their charters, such as philosophy, curriculum, pedagogy, personnel, or governance. Affiliated charters purchase services from the district, hire LAUSD teachers, and participate in program and professional development offered by the district. Teachers and staff in affiliated charters continue to be members of the district’s collective bargaining units. Affiliated charters do have more site-based freedom over budgeting and educational programming than non-charter schools. They receive free district facilities and the district continues to provide administrative support services. The Foundation continues to work with the affiliated charter schools in the complex to clearly define their relationship with the district and to preserve their autonomy.
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