Six Key Questions to Ask If You Want to Create a New Charter School in New York State

Do You Want to Start an Independent Charter School in New York State?

Here Are Six Fundamental Questions to Consider

This is the first of a series of blogs designed to help people interested in establishing new charter schools. 

Do you have a vision for a new charter school? One that can help each child achieve his or her potential? One that will prepare each child for success in school and in life? 

If you are considering applying to establish a new, community-based independent charter school, now is the time to act. 

While the legislative “cap” on charters has, for now, put a hold on additional charter schools in New York City, there has never been a better time for educators, innovators and community leaders outside of New York City to create new charter schools. Currently, nearly 100 additional charter schools may still be approved and opened statewide, and New York’s charter authorizers are actively seeking applications to create new charter schools.

That said, the road to establishing a new charter school can be extremely hard to navigate. The process of applying to create a new charter school is comprehensive, thorough and frankly, very, very hard. And this is a good thing, because the school you are proposing to create will be responsible for the education and well-being of lots of children—in many instances your community’s most vulnerable children. So it is critical that all prospective charter schools are meticulously “vetted” before they are approved. If you want to establish a new charter school in New York State, you’ll have to meet exceptionally tough standards.

In nearly 20 years advising and working with New York charter schools, I have been privileged to work with parents, educators, faith-based leaders and community-based organizations that were inspired to establish innovative independent charter schools. In many cases, when I first met with the charter school planning teams, they were firmly in the “idea” stage of their charter school development—i.e. they wanted to launch a new charter school but did not know the next steps. Through a comprehensive process of Guided Inquiry, my colleagues and I helped them turn their concepts and intentions into successful charter schools.

At JPS Solutions, my partners and I have helped more than a dozen charter development teams to design effective charter schools and create successful charter school applications. We helped to establish a groundbreaking charter school focused exclusively on addressing the needs of children with autism and other severe developmental disabilities. We also helped to establish a charter school that is now launching a College and Career Technology Education program in coordination with the multi-million dollar redevelopment of a major New York City airport. We helped to develop “last chance” charter high schools for over-aged under-credited youth, and we helped a highly-successful K-12 charter school gain approval to replicate and open an affiliated charter school. With each of these schools—and with all of the schools we’ve advised—we worked collaboratively to identify what made the school unique, well-designed and likely to be successful. We then created a charter application that conveyed these points clearly and convincingly to the charter authorizer.

Along the way, I’ve identified a few key questions raised consistently by charter school applicants. Each of these questions focuses on a distinct and critical part of the charter application process, and your answers to these questions will help to define and construct your charter school. In the next several blogs, I’ll address each of these questions, including:

  • Do I Really Want to Create a Charter School? 
  • How Can I Create an Effective Charter School Applicant Team and Founding Board of Trustees?
  • How Should I Select a Charter School Authorizer?
  • What are My School’s Mission and Key Design Elements?
  • How Can I Build and Document Community Support for My Charter School?
  • How Can I Develop a Successful Charter School Application?

In the next few weeks, I’ll dedicate at least one blog to each of these questions. This blog series will attempt to address the concerns of new charter school applicants and to start a dialogue about how to create successful independent charter schools. My intention is to provide constructive advice sprinkled here and there with a bit of “tough love.” 

If you want to establish a new charter school, I’m on your side. I have tremendous respect for anyone seeking to create a charter school, and I appreciate the commitment it takes to prepare a charter school application. I especially admire the dedication and “sticktoitiveness” of charter school applicants who persevere if their initial charter applications are not approved. Recognizing that fewer than 10% of first-time charter school applicants are successful, and most currently-operating charter schools submitted several charter applications before eventually being approved. 

If you are considering joining the elite group of education heroes proposing to create a new charter school, I hope you will find this blog series helpful. Click on this link and let me know. 

Wayne D. Jones is a partner at JPS Solutions, LLC, an educational consulting firm that has worked with charter schools for more than 15 years. Wayne developed successful charter applications for independent charter schools throughout New York State, and he helped charter schools and charter school support organizations secure millions of dollars in grants. He also helped more than a dozen charter schools secure charter renewals. Wayne and his JPS Solutions partners recently joined forces with several distinguished charter school advisors to provide Essential Charter School Services, which provides comprehensive consulting and technical assistance to help charter schools succeed.