So You Want to Start a Charter School? Strategic Advice for Applicants: Recommendations from an Expert Workshop

December 1996

In September of 1995, the Program on Reinventing Public Education invited twelve experts to Seattle for a workshop about the business side of charter school start-up. Specifically, we asked this group to discuss what it takes to start a successful charter school. Some of the participants are bankers, lawyers and insurance experts. Others provide assistance in finance or offer more general technical support to their state's charter schools. All have worked directly with charter school applicants in their state. Based on their experience in five states (California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan and Minnesota), all believe that potential charter school operators could profit from written materials with advice on start-up strategies.

This report summarizes the strategies for charter school start-up recommended by the workshop participants. It is most relevant to potential charter school applicants in states where charter school operators control at least some of the economic decisions affecting their school. It is aimed specifically at those who will lead efforts to start charter schools—individuals whom workshop participants often referred to as "founders." It should also be of general interest to education policy makers, individuals in organizations providing technical assistance to charter applicants, and people affiliated with the charter school movement or merely interested in it. The report was written on the assumption that the reader is generally familiar with charter school law, or at least with the statute in his or her state.