Where Public Education Meets Private Enterprise — Striking the Right Balance
Charter schools take many forms: large, multi-state organizations with thousands of students; small, unique programs focused on a particular program or demographic; schools managed by a committed group of parents and community leaders; boards filled by corporations or large non-profits; charter management organizations (CMOs); you name it. The commonality they share is the merging of public accountability with the promise of private autonomy while striving to provide high quality public education to their students.
Exercising their rights as private entities in pursuit of their educational goals while being responsive and sensitive to public obligations, scrutiny and authorities is one of the chief tensions charter schools must balance. Saul Ewing’s charter school attorneys have guided charter schools through formation, operation and expansion to help them deliver on their promises and commitments. Our attorneys have advised charter schools from other important perspectives as well: as authorizer, board member, and parent, and as counsel to many non-profit organizations that assist charter schools, including a statewide charter advocacy organization.
Our charter school clients range from schools in the beginning stages of organization prior to obtaining a charter to schools seeking renewals of their charters, as well as those seeking charter modifications or confronting potential probation or revocation. Acting as outside “general counsel” to charter schools, we advise schools on the variety of legal issues facing them including board governance, labor and employment matters, policy development, facilities management, bond financing, student issues, and personal injury.
Our team regularly:
- Reviews and assists with the development and submission of charter school applications, interacts with authorizers, oversees compliance with state and federal charter school laws, and handles compliance audits.
- Reviews and advises schools on potential vendor contracts, including agreements with charter management organizations (both for-profit and not-for-profit).
- Advises on corporate formation of both charter schools and related entities, such as fundraising organizations, booster clubs and parent teacher associations ensuring consistency with federal IRS 501(c)(3) requirements.
- Represents schools on student issues, including student discipline, due process and related claims.
- Works with government relations and advocacy groups to propose, draft, revise and comment on amendments to charter school laws.
- Represents schools on employee relations, including drafting and reviewing contracts, reviewing and revising employee handbooks/policies, advising on benefits and related issues, and defending schools in related litigation and administrative matters.
- Works with charter schools on unionization issues and efforts.
- Advises on the legal and public aspects of media relations when managing crises.
- Advises and counsels the board of trustees on governance issues, including the fiduciary duties of charter school boards where parents and teachers serve together along with Freedom of Information Act and Sunshine Law matters.
- Advises on intellectual property issues related to trademarks and branding.
- Represents charter schools on development and financing matters, including the purchase and/or lease of facilities, tax-exempt bond financing, partnerships with foundations, charter-specific loan guaranty or other programs unique to charter schools.
Our team supports and embraces the mission and purpose served by charter schools across the country, and we would be pleased to assist you as you serve your students and community.