These FAQs provide general information to potential Indiana Charter School Board ("ICSB") applicants. It is divided into two section: General Application Questions and Innovation Section Questions. Before you read the FAQs, there are key pieces of information potential charter school operators must be aware of prior to submitting applications. Application documents can be found here.
Indiana's Charter School Law
All potential applicants are advised to carefully review Indiana's charter schools law as found in Indiana Code (“IC”) 20-24 as well as other applicable laws. Applicants may wish to consult with their legal counsel for assistance interpreting these laws.
Blended learning and virtual school applicants should carefully review the definition in Indiana statute of a virtual charter school. Depending upon the proposed model, a blended learning model might actually be classified as a virtual model as defined in state statute. It is important to note that there is a different funding formula for virtual charter schools.
Indiana’s Public Access Laws
Applicants should carefully review Indiana's Public Access Laws. Successful ICSB applicants must demonstrate understanding of the public access laws, including the Open Door Law. Applicants may wish to consult with their legal counsel for assistance interpreting these laws.
Indiana’s Public Access Counselor maintains a handbook that provides clear guidance as well as helpful real-life scenarios to entities that must comply with these laws. The handbook is maintained on the Public Access Counselor website here.
General Charter School Resources
The ICSB website contains a variety of general charter school related resources found here. Applicants are encouraged to look through these resources for general background information and policy resources.
Applicants are welcome to contact the ICSB staff with questions as they complete the ICSB Letter of Intent forms or other application materials.
General Application Questions
Who can apply for a charter from the ICSB?
Per IC 20-24-3, an authorizer may only award a charter to a non-profit charter school organizer. Therefore, applicants to the ICSB must be incorporated as a non-profit entity. In addition, the applicant must either: (1) have a 501(c)(3) Letter of Determination or other non-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service or (2) have submitted an application to the Internal Revenue Service requesting such status.
The ICSB accepts charter school applications from three types of applicants, including the following:
- New Operators seeking to launch one new charter school;
- Experienced Operators seeking to launch one or more charter schools; and
- Existing Indiana charter schools seeking to switch authorizers.
The ICSB defines “New Operators” as those applicants who have not previously operated a charter school and who do not intend to contract with an Education Service Provider (“ESP”) to oversee school operations. “Experienced Operators” are defined as either: (a) applicants that have previously operated a charter school or managed a network of charter schools; or (b) applicants that have not previously operated a charter school, but intend to contract with an ESP. Experienced Operators with experienced Boards may apply for one or more charter.
How many application cycles does the ICSB have per year?
Currently, the ICSB holds two cycles per year: a Spring and a Fall application cycle. Please refer to the ICSB website for specific application cycle timelines.
Will the ICSB consider applications outside of its Spring and Fall Cycles?
The ICSB does not currently accept applications outside of our regular cycles.
What is the preferred governance structure for a charter holder?
The ICSB is open to different governance structures, and it encourages you to explore the pros and cons of various structures with your legal counsel. Applicants should be mindful of the following:
- The governing body of the charter school – including any committee or body to which the board delegates some authority regarding the school – must comply with Indiana’s Public Access Laws, including the Open Door Law.
- Indiana law (see IC 20-24-3-3) requires that the organizer’s governing documents comply with the following:
- "The organizer's constitution, charter, articles, or bylaws must contain a clause providing that upon dissolution: (1) the remaining assets of the charter school shall be distributed first to satisfy outstanding payroll obligations for employees of the charter school, then to creditors of the charter school, then to any outstanding debt to the common school fund; and (2) remaining funds received from the department shall be returned to the department not more than thirty (30) days after dissolution. If the assets of the charter school are insufficient to pay all parties to whom the charter school owes compensation under subdivision (1), the priority of the distribution of assets may be determined by a court.”
- The ICSB awards a charter to and executes the charter agreement with the school’s governing body. The ICSB will hold the school’s board accountable for meeting the performance standards set forth in the ICSB Accountability System.
What skills should a board possess?
Governing a charter school, especially during its initial start-up period, is a very demanding – although rewarding – experience. Serving on a board requires a significant investment of time and skills on the part of each charter school board member. The ICSB carefully assesses the qualifications and experiences of proposed governing body members to ensure the applicant demonstrates the ability to oversee a high-performing charter school and fulfill all fiduciary obligations as the charter holder.
Please note that the proposed Board of Directors of the charter school must demonstrate readiness to govern the school at the time the application is submitted.
Does the ICSB prefer applicants to partner with Education Service Providers (ESPs) to manage operations?
No, the ICSB is open to all kinds of applicants, including operators that do not intend to partner with an ESP. During the application process, the ICSB carefully assesses each applicant’s capacity to govern and operate a high-performing charter school, in accordance with the performance expectations described in the ICSB Accountability System. Each applicant should be familiar with these performance expectations at the time the application is submitted.
Does it matter if our ESP partner is non-profit or for-profit?
No. The ICSB is focused solely upon whether a charter school operator can deliver strong academic outcomes for its enrolled students, maintain good financial health, operate effectively, and comply with all applicable charter school laws. Note that any ESP partner with which a charter school contracts must be registered to do business in Indiana with the Indiana Secretary of State's office.
When assessing an experienced operator’s performance track record, what are you looking for?
The ICSB assesses the operator’s demonstrated success in delivering strong academic outcomes for all enrolled students, maintaining good financial health, and complying with all applicable laws. In addition, it assesses whether the operator has adequate systems in place to identify underperformance and implement effective corrective actions in any underperforming schools.
With what standards should our proposed curriculum align?
Indiana adopted the Indiana College and Career Ready Academic Standards in 2014. The ICSB requires all applicants to demonstrate alignment of their proposed curriculum with these current state standards. You can find more information about these standards and their implementation at the following link: http://www.doe.in.gov/standards.
What kind of interim assessments does the ICSB require?
Apart from the assessments described in the ICSB Accountability System posted on our website, the ICSB does not require particular interim assessments. However, the ICSB strongly encourages schools to utilize interim assessments to guide instructional practices. Legislation enacted in 2015 created a grant program ($12.3 million per year) to allow public and accredited nonpublic schools to apply through the Indiana Department of Education ("IDOE") for funds to help with the costs of purchasing interim assessments. This is a change from the past practice in which the state funded the cost of the state-procured, voluntary interim assessments, mCLASS and Acuity.
What teacher licensing requirements does the ICSB require?
Charters schools are required to comply with Indiana’s licensing requirements as described in IC 20-24-6-5. The statute required that at least 90% of those teaching full time in a charter school must meet the following criteria:
- Hold a license to teach in a public school in Indiana under IC 20-28-5; or
- Be in the process of obtaining a license to teach in a public school in Indiana under the transition to teaching program established by IC 20-28-4-2; unless the charter school requests and the state board approves a waiver for a lower percentage.
If a full time teacher doesn't meet the criteria above, they must either
- Be in the process of obtaining a license to teach in a charter school in Indiana under IC 20-28-5-16; or
- Hold at least a bachelor's degree with a grade point average of at least 3 on a 4 point scale from an accredited postsecondary educational institution in the content or related area in which the teacher teaches.
Teachers meeting the criteria above cannot exceed 10% of the full time staff unless the charter school requests and receives approval of a waiver from the State Board of Education. Teachers working to obtain a license in a transition to teaching program but do so within 3 years after beginning to teach at that school. A part-time teacher in a charter school must hold at least a bachelor's degree with a GPA of at least 3 on a 4 point scale from an accredited postsecondary educational instutition. This degree must be in the content or related content area in which he or she teaches.
Any individual who is providing services in a charter school that is not a teaching position, but requires a license, must be appropriately licensed in Indiana to provide such service.
Information regarding licensure and permits, which are included in the 90% requirement of IC 20-24-6-5, may be found here: http://www.doe.in.gov/licensing/prospective-educators.
Do I need to have a facility identified before submitting an application?
Securing an appropriate and affordable facility is often the biggest challenge a charter school will face. The ICSB does not require that applicants have a facility identified prior to submitting an application. Indeed, it is often not possible for an organizer to qualify for a loan, lease, or mortgage until a charter has been awarded. However, an applicant should provide as much specificity as possible regarding the proposed location of the charter school.
Charter school facilities must comply with state and local health and safety requirements as required by the Indiana State Department of Health, Office of the State Fire Marshall, local departments of public works and the corresponding local agencies. In addition, charter school applicants must be prepared to follow applicable city or town planning review procedures. Prior to submitting an application, the organizer should conduct due diligence with potential charter school lenders and developers to determine whether the targeted facility is zoned appropriately, is suitable for the proposed school model, and is affordable. Applicants must also be prepared to provide specific facility cost inputs into their budget when preparing the 5-Year pro forma budget.
Can charter schools utilize vacant district facilities?
Effective 2011, Indiana law requires that all school corporations in the state submit a list of newly available vacant district facilities to the IDOE every August. Charter holders may either lease or purchase an available facility for $1. Please visit the IDOE website for more information about the process regarding vacant district facilities.
What other facilities assistance is available?
The IDOE Charter School Specialist administers a federal charter school facilities. Please contact the IDOE Charter School Specialist for more information.
In addition, the IDOE launched a new revolving loan fund for Indiana charter schools. All charter schools, including start-up charter schools, are eligible to apply. The IDOE has contracted with a non-profit community development financial institution, IFF, to manage this revolving loan fund. For more information, please contact:
What is the Charter and Innovation Network School Advance Program?
In 2015, the Indiana General Assembly added the Charter and Innovation Network School Advance Program (IC 20-49-9) as a loan program administered by the State Board of Education to make advances to charter schools, excluding virtual charter schools and adult high schools, equal to not more than $50 million total over the biennium. Advances may be made at 1% interest with a 10 year maximum term and no more than a $5m total advance outstanding to any one school. The funds must be used for educational purposes, including to construct or purchase a school facility (the latter requires an adequate security interests as determined by IDOA.
The program allows automatic qualification for:
- Charter schools in their first 2 years of operation;
- Charter schools that receive an A, B, or C category designation;
- Charter schools that did not receive a grade; and
- Charter schools with majority of students with developmental, intellectual, or behavioral challenges.
Charter schools that received a D or F qualify if the charter school was placed in the same or better category than the nearest similar noncharter public school.
Where can I get information about state funding for charter schools?
State funding information can be found at the Indiana Department of Education Office of School Finance page. In addition to the IDOE, the ICSB website contains information about sources of Indiana charter school funding. Please see in particular the Charter School Start-Up Manual posted on the ICSB website.
Please note important points about Indiana’s school funding formula:
- The state operates on a July 1-June 30 fiscal year; per-pupil funding is calculated twice per year based upon student enrollment in September and February and is paid monthly.
- First year charter schools currently provide enrollment information in late May or early June to determine the state funding they receive from July to October, then the amount of funding is reconciled in November and December based on the September student enrollment count. The September student count is then used to calculate funding for January to April, Then, in May and June, the February enrollment count is used to reconcile the difference in state funding. Charter schools in their second year of operation and beyond may submit estimated enrollment number in late May or early June. Applicants should be certain to reflect this reality in their budget submissions.
- Legislation from 2015 added the Charter and Innovation Network School Grant Program. This program is described in the question above.
- The funding formula for virtual charter schools differs from the funding formula for traditional charter schools. Applicants proposing a virtual model should be certain to reflect the appropriate formula in their 5-Year budget submission.
The ICSB strongly encourages all applicants to contact the IDOE Office of School Finance directly with questions about per-pupil funding.
How much philanthropic funding should the 5-year pro forma budget assume?
A charter school’s ability to secure philanthropic support or federal grants to support school start-up and operations will depend upon many factors. An applicant should not assume that such grants will be secured. Therefore, the ICSB advises applicants to build their operating budget conservatively, assuming no grant funding for core school operations.
What happens after the ICSB’s voting members award a charter?
Following the Board’s approval of a charter school application, the applicant’s designated representative will receive a letter confirming the Board’s decision. In addition, the designated representative will receive a copy of the charter agreement for review by the charter school’s governing body. Prior to charter agreement execution, the ICSB may request some follow-up information from the charter applicant. For more information regarding the start up process, please review the ICSB Start Up manual.
If the ICSB’s voting members decline an application, can the applicant reapply?
Yes, applicants may reapply during a subsequent application cycle. ICSB staff will provide feedback to applicants upon their request.
Innovation Section Questions
What does “If Applicable” mean regarding the section on innovation?
The ICSB recognizes that some, but not all, applicants intend to propose innovations (as defined in the application). Because the ICSB maintains a particular interest in innovation, this section provides a forum for applicants to offer more detail on the innovative aspects of their applications. This section is not required.
The ICSB recognizes that innovation is not necessary for an application to be exceptional and worthy of approval. Applicants that do not complete this section will not be at a disadvantage in the application evaluation process.
If you do fill out this section, explain concisely what makes your planned innovations compelling. The categories listed in the application (teaching, technology, time, and other innovations) and their key elements should help you focus your answers.
Will I receive extra points or other specific advantages by filling out the section on innovation?
No. Innovative school models hold interest for the ICSB because it recognizes that well-designed innovative models may dramatically improve student achievement. Applicants with otherwise strong charter school applications will not be penalized for omitting this section.
If an applicant does answer this section, it is important to make sure answers are thoughtful and well planned. Applicants should be prepared to discuss and answer questions regarding the capacity of their board to monitor the innovations to ensure student achievement.
What does it mean for a proposed model to be "fundamentally different from typical school models"?
To be fundamentally different, a charter school model must demonstrate how it will utilize the flexibility allowed in charter schools to provide strong academic outcomes for students. In at least one of the areas listed in the innovation portion of the application—such as staffing models and instructional strategies that provide excellent teaching for all students; school design (both uses of time and physical space); technology use; governance arrangements; and family and community engagement strategies—applicants will want to show how they go beyond current practices and why.
My model is attempting something very new and on the cutting edge of current practices so it lack a strong evidentiary basis. Will I be penalized for that?
No, you will not be penalized as long as you can demonstrate underlying reasons the ICSB should expect your model to be successful. The ICSB understands that truly new models will not have results to prove their efficacy. However, the ICSB does expect applicants to provide other information to support their theories, either through examples of similar models that share core characteristics (even if the programs are not identical) or through the data or research that underlies their theories and how this applies to the results they expect.
What are the ICSB’s expectations for accountability in innovative models?
The default expectation is that, regardless of the innovation proposed by the applicant, the academic indicators described in the ICSB Accountability System will apply to the applicant’s proposed school. Applicants should carefully review the academic performance standards within the ICSB Accountability System, proposing modifications to these standards only where necessary, ensuring that these modifications maintain the level of rigor in the current plan, and explaining how this is so. Applicants must demonstrate how the ICSB can hold the operator to the same high standards to which it holds all its authorized schools.
Do I need to propose an innovation in one of the listed areas of teaching, technology or time?
These three areas are given for illustration, not as an exhaustive list or to suggest specific ICSB preferences. Applicants proposing an innovation in another area, whether listed in the innovation section of the application or not, will be given equal consideration. In its review, the ICSB will focus on how any proposed innovation can improve student achievement, basing its review on the quality of the applicant’s summary of its proposed innovations. If your innovation falls under the “other innovations” category, you should study the “key elements” listed for the first three innovation categories to better understand what the ICSB expects from all applicants with innovative proposals.