All summer I've been working on a project along with some others, to create a model contract template. It's a difficult project because some issues are a matter of priority and preference for the authorizer and on other issues we can make a statement about what's fair.
Some of the hot topics include:
* How should a charter school be held accountable for improving academic achievement and how should that accountability be enforced?
* What constitutes a "material change" to the contract, or an issue that should be submitted to the authorizer for acceptance? Notice I didn't use the word "approval" and instead used "acceptance." The authorizer doesn't need to necessarily agree with everything the charter school does, but it should be informed.
* What is the proper level of oversight for an authorizer? How can the relationship between the charter school and authorizer be more transparent?
* What is a fair corrective action plan if the charter school fails to meet its stated outcomes or submit reports on time?
* When should a charter school be subject to revocation?
* How much should the authorizer be involved in the contract a charter board executes with an education service provider? Can the authorizer require certain provisions be included in that contract?
* How can an authorizer ensure diversity amongst the charter school's student population without weighting the lottery and therefore making the charter school ineligible for federal charter school startup funds?
* How can an authorizer fairly compare charter school academic performance to its other schools?
* Should an authorizer automatically waive some district policies without requiring a charter school to request them if the policies don't pertain to the charter school at all?
The contract template is predicated on the following four beliefs:
1. Transparency between the parties is key to a good relationship.
2. The relationship should be clearly established in the beginning.
3. The contract should promote success of the charter school.
4. The outcome is more important than the process.
We've also been continually reminding ourselves that "less is more" and the key issues need to receive priority. It's especially important for an authorizer to define their own philosophies and priorities about chartering schools. This guiding philosophy will permeate monitoring and oversight and also what ends up in the charter contract.