Top Ten Questions About Maine Charter School
1. What is a Charter School?
Maine charter schools are public schools. As a public school, all students can decide to attend a charter school as an alternative to the district school. Maine Charter Schools are publicly funded by the Maine Department of Education. The Maine Department of Education defines charter schools as ‘public schools of choice that students can decide to attend as an alternative to traditional public schools.’ Each state has different guidelines and laws regarding charter schools, but in Maine, the schools are public schools designed to offer choices to K-12 students. As such, public charter schools are not allowed to charge tuition or set admission standards.
2. Who oversees the Maine Charter Schools?
The Maine Charter Commission oversees and authorizes the charter schools. The Charter Commission consists of seven members appointed by the Maine State Board of Education. Three members come from the Board of Education and the other four members come from a variety of professional backgrounds. The Commission votes to authorize or reject a proposed charter school based on a review of its mission, academic programs, governance structure, policies and financing. The Commission also monitors school performance and decides whether to renew or revoke the charter after five years. Public charter schools are overseen by the Maine Department of Education, the Maine Charter Commission and the school’s own board of directors. Charter school boards of directors are not elected officials, rather, the school asks them to serve.
3. How does MEAA determine who attends the school?
Public charter schools in Maine must accept any Maine resident student. If there are more applications than openings, a lottery system is established. To date, MEAA has not needed to use a lottery system to determine student enrollment. Students currently attending have priority in registration for the following year. Maine Arts Academy has been able to enroll foreign exchange students for one-year learning opportunities.
4. How are charter schools funded?
Charter schools are funded by the Department of Education. Funding formulas are based on the towns of residence of the students enrolled. Public charter schools do not receive more funding than any traditional school district. Charter schools do not raise any local tax dollars. Charters are also expected to raise money through gifts and grants, but the basic funding is a per student amount from state tax dollars. NO tuition is charged to students attending charter schools in our state.
5. Must all charter school teachers be certified?
Full-time teachers in a public charter school must either hold an appropriate teaching certificate or become certified within three years of the date they are hired. Teachers with an advanced degree, professional certification or unique expertise or experience in their curricular areas are exempted from the certification requirement. (Me Title 20-A ch 112)
6. How are charter schools evaluated?
The Maine Charter School Commission has three-member teams that visit each school. During this time, the team reviews data and sets goals. The Commission is mandated to prepare a report on each school annually. Each charter school is also evaluated on the fourth year to determine viability for the future.
7. Do charter school students have to demonstrate the same proficiency as traditional public school students in order to graduate from high school?
In 2012, the Maine Legislature passed a law mandating that all public school diplomas in Maine be awarded based on the mastery of knowledge and skills in eight content areas. The Maine Charter Commission has made the mastery requirements part of the charter school contracts.
8. Can students with disabilities or special education needs attend charter schools?
Yes, public charter schools are required to provide special education services just like traditional public schools. All charter schools have special education staff members on campus.
9. How do public charter schools compare to traditional public schools in terms of performance
Charter schools are held accountable to a performance framework that includes a wide range of expectations. The categories addressed are learning growth, attendance, enrollment, post-secondary readiness, financial stability, facilities management and social climate. The MEAA Charter School Team reviews each of these categories annually and assists in setting growth goals for each target.
10. Do the MEAA students meet post secondary goals?
Students at MEAA are able to take as many as four college courses in each of their junior and senior years.
For the school’s two graduations, 95% of the students were enrolled in post-secondary programs. Students have been accepted at the following schools: Colby-Sawyer, Curry College, Pace University, Thomas College, Emerson College, Lesley University, Emmanuel College, Clarkson University, Saint Joseph’s College, Berklee College of Music, University of East London, University of New England, University of Maine, Bridgewater State College, Wentworth Institute of Technology, New England School of Photography, Young Americans College of Performing Arts.
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