With the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) reporting that there are more than two million students attending more than 5,000 charter schools nationwide, there is a growing interest around the concept of charter schools as a path of education, and with that peaked interest, comes the new field of charter school law and the legal issues, challenges and concerns of charter school operators.
Charter school law is a new and developing field, reflecting the willingness of school boards and state legislatures over recent years to explore alternative models of public education for students. Charter schools are public schools that are often run independently of school districts by educators or companies and have more freedom and fewer state regulations than district schools, but charter schools must comply with policies set by their authorizer. The charter exempts the school from selected state or local rules and regulations. In return for funding and autonomy, the charter school must meet the accountability standards articulated in its charter.
Adams and Reese has education law attorneys located in the southeastern states that have a significant charter school presence, including Alabama, Louisiana, Florida and Tennessee, all which rank in the Top 20 states nationwide in terms of the number of charter schools, according to the NAPCS. Across the firm’s regional footprint throughout the southern United States and Washington, DC, Adams and Reese attorneys have been at the forefront of understanding charter school law, assisting with the opening of charter schools by guiding many of the charter schools through the charter application process; assisting in all operational aspects; drafting legislation and policy and lobbying at the local and state level; representing charter schools in various study groups; assisting in the formation of charter school advocacy organizations; and assisting with the financing of acquisition, construction, and equipping of the facilities utilized by charter schools through the issuance of tax-exempt and/or taxable bonds.
Adams and Reese attorneys have been involved in education law since the 1970s and have advised school districts and other educational institutions in everything from desegregation to the development of today’s student rights environment. Our attorneys frequently speak on issues of school administration and education law. We have represented or consulted with more than 100 schools and districts in the states we serve. Many of our attorneys have backgrounds in education, including special education and administration.
Core Practice and Clients
There are several legal issues that can arise for a charter school, from working with the regulatory boards for the opening of its facility to issues that may arise during its operation, including employment and student issues, testing irregularities, discipline issues, special needs or Section 504 issues. Charter schools also face many of the same legal concerns as other organizations, including properly forming a legal entity, board and governance issues, regulatory and compliance-related concerns, employment issues, ongoing legal issues related to operations, financing infrastructure need and other capital improvements in a financially feasible way, as well as dealing with any litigation that may arise.
Adams and Reese attorneys work with schools, districts and charter school organizations, primarily in Louisiana, Florida and Tennessee, in legal areas that include:
- Applying for charters to operate a charter school and drafting the necessary legislation to obtain state approval.
- Working with charter schools on charter applications and the renewal process.
- Advising on any taxation, financing and bonding issues, and also public funding concerns for charter schools. Tax issues can include charter school tax-exempt status, filings with and dealing with the Internal Revenue Service, and multi-corporate structures that may be applicable to charter schools. Financing issues include any private donations, bank loans, taxable and tax exempt fund issuances, and tax credit opportunities.
- Aiding in the real estate and facility-use arrangements for charter schools and helping them negotiate leases with property owners for commercial real estate and property for charter schools, and also helping in any construction or expansion projects.
- Assisting in any labor and employment matters in connection with hirings, dismissals, due process review, public disclosure and confidentiality matters in connection with charter school employees and staff.
- Monitoring state legislative developments that affect charter schools and acting as liaison to state departments of education.
- Serving as counsel to management companies and nonprofit organizations operating charter schools.
- Reviewing vendor contracts with businesses, and negotiation of school management company contracts and operating agreements.
- Assisting with the financing of the acquisition, construction and equipping of facilities utilized by charter schools through the issuance of tax-exempt and/or taxable bonds.
The charter school movement presents both challenges and opportunities for today’s public education system, and Adams and Reese attorneys are available to deliver legal advice on all charter topics, such as filing applications to the state for a charter school; training governance issues; review of approval/denials; facilities issues, labor and employment issues; and support for understanding and addressing education needs within the new charter school system.