District of Columbia School Reform Act of 1996

One of the strongest charter school laws in the United States, the Act established two chartering boards - the elected Board of Education and a new entity, the DC Public Charter School Board. Together the two boards can charter up to 20 schools per year.

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Charter schools in the District may be created in three ways: as startups, by conversion from private schools, and by conversion from DCPS schools. For information about how to start a public charter school in the District click here.

The public charter schools created by both boards are entirely independent of the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and the District of Columbia government. The Act also specifies that the charter schools are exempt from any statutes, policies, rules, and regulations established for DCPS by any District governmental entity. Charter school teachers are not unionized and teacher pay and benefits are dictated by market forces.

Each charter school is organized as a non-profit corporation with its own board of directors, at least two members of which must be parents of students enrolled in the school. The school corporation is given exclusive control over expenditures, administration, personnel, and instructional methods.

Charters are granted for 15 years, with unlimited renewals. Charter schools must report annually to their chartering boards on academic progress and produce an annual audited financial statement. Charters may be closed down at five years for failure to achieve their academic goals and at any time for financial mismanagement.

The School Reform Act and related funding legislation establish a Uniform Per Pupil Funding Formula for the District of Columbia, under which all students - DCPS and charter - are funded at the same dollar amount. In addition, these laws establish a per-pupil facilities allowance for the public charter schools that is tied to DCPS's capital funding.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA OFFICIAL CODE
DIVISION VI. EDUCATION, LIBRARIES, AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS.

TITLE 38. EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS.
SUBTITLE IV. PUBLIC EDUCATION-CHARTER SCHOOLS.

Chapter 18. District of Columbia School Reform (Public Charter Schools).