Portland Public Schools is particularly interested in charter school applications that focus on closing the achievement gap, meeting District priorities, and educating an ethnically, racially, and socioeconomically diverse group of students with culturally competent curriculum and pedagogy.
PPS accepts applications for charter schools with high school components (grades 9-12) and charter schools with any combination of grades K-8 in alternating years. In other words, applications that include high school grades will be accepted in even-numbered years, and applications that do not include high school grades will be accepted in odd-numbered years.
The 2023 charter school application cycle is now CLOSED.
The application documents can be accessed below. Please contact the PPS Charter Schools Office with any questions.
2023 Charter School Developer Application: click here
2023 Completeness Checklist: click here
2022 Application Review Criteria & Rubric: click here FOR REFERENCE ONLY
IMPORTANT DUE DATES:
- Letter of Intent to Apply - Due BY May 1, 2024
- Application to develop a public charter school - Due ON July 15, 2024
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a charter school?
Charter schools are public schools that are intended to provide innovative programs with specific educational philosophies and/or delivery models that offer additional options for students and families within the public school system. Charter schools are 501(c)3 organizations that enter into a contract with Portland Public Schools for sponsorship and they maintain a high level of autonomy in exchange for increased accountability. Charter schools are governed by Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 338.
Who can start a charter school?
Any interested person or group who can obtain 501(c)3 status may submit a charter school application. In Oregon, charter schools are frequently proposed by (but are not limited to) community groups, educators, partents, existing nonprofits, and other organizations.
When is the deadline for applying for charter school status?
PPS Board policy states that charter school applications are accepted on July 15 (or next business day) each year. Because we typically receive multiple applications, and because the statutory timeline begins upon submission, we reserve this one date for applications each year in order to process all applications on the same timeline. Additionally, applications without high school components (K-8s, K-5s, 6-8s, etc.) are only accepted in odd years; applications with high school components (9-12s, K-12s, 6-12s, etc.) are only accepted in even years.
Are there a maximum number of applications per year that PPS accepts?
No. PPS places no limits on the number of applications that can be submitted per year. The only limitation on applications is the timeline by grade level, as stated above.
How long does it take to develop an application?
While the development of a charter school application is intensive and lengthy, there is no definitive length of time for writing it. Most successful applicants, however, begin developing the application and communities of interest well over a year before submitting the application.
Is there grant money available for starting a charter school?
The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) has grant monies available and after an application has been approved by the sponsor, the charter school is eligible to apply for grant money with ODE.
What is PPS’s role as a charter school authorizer?
PPS is responsible for oversight and monitoring of all charter schools sponsored by the district. PPS collects required annual deliverables, monitors financial stability and student performance, and ensures that the charter school is compliant with law and the contract. Additionally, PPS provides support and partnership to charter schools in a variety of ways – technology support, monthly directors’ meetings, and professional development, to name a few.
What if I have questions?
Please direct all questions about charter school statutes, rules, and processes (including the application process) to the PPS Charter Schools Office.
How long is the charter school application process?
Modifications to the charter school law in the 2013 legislative session allowed for multiple opportunities for mediation and appeal during the application process. Because of this, the application process could last from as little as 8 months to as many as 20 months.
What laws must charter schools follow?
Charter schools are governed by Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 338, which makes reference to other laws that apply to charter schools. Mandatory charter school processes and timelines are described in detail in Oregon Administrative Rules (OARs) 581-026-0005 through 581-026-0515. Additionally, charter schools are subject to federal law.
How are charter schools funded?
The vast majority of charter schools' funding typically comes from Oregon’s State School Fund, which are public dollars allocated for education. By statute, charter schools must receive a minimum of 80% of the per-student dollar amount for students in grades K-8, and 95% for students in grades 9-12. There are additional weightings for students in poverty and students who are English Language Learners. As registered 501(c)3 organizations, charter schools can apply for and receive grants and private donations, and can conduct fundraising activities.
How do charter schools enroll students?
Charter school enrollment must be fair and equitable, and may only be limited by the age of the student, the grade of the student, and the space available. No other admissions criteria may be used. If a charter school receives fewer applications than it has spots available in a particular grade/class, then all applicants should be admitted. If the charter school receives more applications than it has spots available in a particular grade/class, then it must conduct an equitable, blind lottery to determine enrollment for that class/grade. A charter school may admit students who reside in other districts, but priority must first be given to students who reside in the district where the charter school is located. Charter schools may employ a sibling preference provision after a student has been enrolled for the prior school year, but this is not mandatory. Charter schools manage and run their own application cycles and lotteries.
What is the role of the PPS Board in charter school processes?
The PPS Board makes the final decision whether or not to approve all initial charter school applications, whether or not to renew charter school contracts that are up for renewal, and whether or not to terminate a charter school contract (when/if that situation arises). Additionally, members of the PPS Board conduct the statutorily-required hearings during the application and renewal processes.
How does a charter school hire teachers and other staff?
Charter schools have a great deal of autonomy when hiring staff. At least 50% of charter school teaching and administrative FTE must be licensed, and the rest must hold charter school registry with the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC). All teachers must meet state credentialing requirements for core subjects. Teachers at charter schools, however, are not PPS employees and are not part of the Portland Teachers Association, and, therefore, are not assigned to charters by the district, nor are they subject to seniority bumping. Each charter school has full autonomy in hiring its own teachers and determining its pay scale for all staff, while ensuring that all aforementioned requirements are met.
How do charter schools determine their location/sites?
Each charter school is responsible for securing its own school site. Most charter schools lease buildings, and some own or share space with other agencies. However it is done, each charter school must ensure that its building meets all applicable requirements and codes, and is properly permitted.
Is a charter school exempt from state testing requirements?
No. Charter schools, as public schools, are required to test students with state-adopted testing materials in the timeline set forth by the state. Currently, Oregon students must be tested in grades 3-8 and 11 in various subjects. Charter school students must also meet Oregon diploma requirements in order to graduate, and charter schools must provide a curriculum aligned to Common Core Standards.
How does a charter school serve students with different needs like Special Education (SpEd) and English Language Learners (ELL)?
Charter schools partner with the district for Special Education, as the district is ultimately responsible for ensuring that students in need of SpEd services receive them. PPS provides SpEd learning center teaching staff, speech/language pathologists, and school psychologists to charter schools through a staffing formula based on the charter school’s population of students.
Charter schools are responsible for serving the needs of students qualifying as English Language Learners. Each PPS charter school must submit a written plan which details how the school will serve English Language Learners (ELL), even if no students identified as ELL currently attend the school. The plan must: (1) be based on a sound educational theory or legitimate experimental strategy; (2) be implemented effectively, and (3) produce results that demonstrate that language barriers are being overcome.
Who is responsible for providing transportation for charter school students – the district or the charter school?
Charter schools are required to ensure that transportation is not a barrier to enrollment of their students. Given that charter school students can come to the school from all areas of the district, charter schools can employ a variety of options such as: organizing parent carpools, providing direct transportation, providing bus passes to families and/or students, etc. Charter school students are also eligible to ride on already-existing district bus routes, if there is space and the stops are convenient to the charter school.