Three Reasons that Charter School Boards Need Effective Policies

The backbone of effective and sustainable charter schools is a set of comprehensive and coherent board policies. Governing board policies bring uniformity to a school’s culture, reduce the risk of unwanted events, prepare the school for renewal and provide a roadmap for charter school administrators, staff, parents/guardians and students.

But let’s face it, creating, reviewing and passing board policies is one of the least exciting aspects of governing, so why do it? It could be argued that board policies uphold the mission and vision of the charter school, making this work some of the most important.

Reason #1: Federal or State Law Often Requires It

Every year, hundreds of new laws are passed at the federal and state level. Sometimes, these new laws require charter schools to prepare and adopt a set of new or updated policies. One recent example is Ed Code section 51747 which requires governing boards to adopt independent study policies containing specified elements as one of many conditions that must be met to generate funded average daily attendance for students on independent study. Adoption of these policies is high stakes, and the law also requires charter school governing boards to hold a public hearing on the topic. Failure of the charter school to adopt updated independent study policies may result in the state refusing to fund independent study programs for the charter school. Additionally, there are several student policies that are required of schools. Schools must have the following policies in place among others:

These are considered policies essential to the functioning of the school.

Reason #2: Create a Common Understanding and Expectations for School Employees

Charter schools are employers and as such must prepare a uniform set of rules and regulations for their employees. These policies are usually collected and held (either hard copy or in electronic form) in an employee handbook. This handbook might contain...

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