Oklahoma Charter Schools Program

What are charter schools?

Charter schools are public schools that are allowed greater flexibility for greater accountability. For example, charter schools are not required to adhere to the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness standards set by the state of Oklahoma, but charters that do not meet performance standards may be closed by their sponsors.   A charter school maintains its own board of governance in addition to being accountable to their sponsor (authorizer) that should advise and closely monitor charter school leadership.  The Oklahoma Charter School Act lists seven (7) purposes for charter schools:


1. Improve student learning;

2. Increase learning opportunities for students;

3. Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods;

4. Provide additional academic choices for parents and students;

5. Require the measurement of student learning and create different and innovative forms of measuring student learning;

6. Establish new forms of accountability for schools; and

7. Create new professional opportunities for teachers and administrators including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the school site.


Who can sponsor (authorize) a charter school?

The Oklahoma Charter School Act allows several avenues to charter sponsorship.  Possible sponsors (authorizers) are listed below:

1. A school district or a technology center with average daily membership (ADM) of 5,000 in counties with more than 500,000 residents

2. A school district or a technology center with a school site in school improvement

3. A comprehensive or regional institution that is a member of The Oklahoma State System of Higher Education that has a teacher education program may sponsor a charter within districts with average daily membership (ADM) of 5,000 in counties with more than 500,000 residents

4. A comprehensive or regional institution that is a member of The Oklahoma State System of Higher Education that has a teacher education program may sponsor a charter within a school district with a school site in school improvement

5. A federally recognized Indian Tribe, if the charter is for the purpose of demonstrating native language immersion instruction, and is located within its former reservation or treaty area boundaries

6. The State Board of Education only when the applicant is the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) or when the charter has a contract with the OJA


How to get started?

To start a charter one must do the at least the following things:

Attend a charter school training offered semiannually by the SDE (For information call (405) 522-5321)

Complete a charter application with the minimum qualifications and any other qualifications as outlined by their potential sponsor (authorizer)

Garner and be able to demonstrate community support

Submit application to a sponsor (authorizer)

At a minimum, applications must include the following:

Mission statement

Description of organizational structure and governance

Financial plan for the first three years/description of person responsible for finances

Hiring policy

Name(s) of the applicant(s)

Facility and location description

Description of the grades to be served

Plan to measure instructional effectiveness

Demonstration of support from area residents

Documentation of charter school training


Eligible sponsors have 90 days to respond to each application. If an application is rejected, applicants may within 30 days submit a revised application, which must be answered within 30 days. If it is rejected a second time, applicants may seek mediation or binding arbitration.

Who can attend charter schools?

Charter schools cannot "limit admission based on ethnicity, national origin, gender, income level, disabling condition, English proficiency, measures of achievement, aptitude, or athletic ability." They may enroll students whose legal residence is within the boundaries of the school district in which the school is located or who have transferred into the school district. Preference shall be given to resident students. If capacity is insufficient to enroll all interested eligible students, then charter schools must select students through a lottery. 

How are charter schools funded?

Like any public school, charter schools receive state funding through the State Aid funding formula, set by law. Up to 5 percent of a school's allocation may be retained by its sponsor for administrative costs. Charter schools may receive additional funding through public aid, grants and other revenue as well as private sources, but the schools must be nonprofit. The Charter Schools Incentive Fund assists those interested in establishing charter schools. Applicants are eligible for up to $50,000 for start-up costs. Only charter schools with sponsor approval are eligible to apply.

To whom are charter schools accountable?

Charters are accountable to their sponsors (authorizers).  Charter school contracts can be approved for no longer than five years at a time, and must include criteria by which effectiveness of the school will be measured. Sponsors must give written notice and explanation of their intent to deny requests for renewal at least 8 months prior to expiration of contracts. However, if a charter school fails to meet the standards outlined in its contract, its sponsor may give only 90 days written notice of intent to terminate.

Charters are accountable to their boards.  When charters are run well, their advisory or governance boards maintain high performance standards and take corrective action when needed.  Every charter operation falls under their purview, from finances to teacher evaluation.  Advisory boards must follow the Open Meetings Act.

Charters are accountable to the SDE.  Like any other public school, charters must go through an accreditation process which is run through the Office of Accreditation at the SDE.  This is to ensure that charters are compliant with all federal and state laws.  Additionally, charters are graded on the A-F Report Card.

Are charter schools required to employ teachers, as defined in 70 O.S. § 1-116? In other words, are charter schools required to employ individuals who hold a valid certificate issued by and in accordance with the rules of the State Board of Education?

No. Unless it is provided in the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act and the charter of a charter school, a charter school is exempt from all statutes and rules relating to schools, boards of educations and school districts. With these additional flexibilities and de-regulations afforded to charter schools, a charter school is not required to employ an individual who holds a valid Oklahoma teaching certificate. While most charter schools do employ Oklahoma certified teachers, they are not required to do so. This applies to all Oklahoma charter schools, including those sponsored by a federally recognized Indian tribe, a charter school focusing on a language immersion program, virtual charter schools and/or brick and mortar charter schools. The statutory compliance requirements for charter schools can be generally located at this link. Tribally operated charter schools and other charter schools may choose to operate their own certification process unique to the qualifications appropriate for a teacher at their school; provided, except as provided in 70 O.S. § 5-142(E), all individuals must satisfactorily undergo and clear a national criminal history record check prior to employment in a public school (charter or non-charter).



Accreditation Standards Division
Office: (405) 522-5321
Fax: (405) 522-1519


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Last updated on April 25, 2022