INCS resources and guidance for individuals interested in creating new school options for their families and communities
INCS empowers those ready to take the leap and start a charter public school. We provide expert knowledge, coaching, resources, and connections to help school designers open excellent learning spaces for young minds. If you’re interested in diversifying the education offerings in your community, explore our library of resources and connect with us.
Are the students in your community not being served well by the current school(s)? Do you have a vision for a school that will specifically meet the needs of your community? Does your community want a new school option? Do you have a team of people who are committed to working for two or more years to make a new school for your community a reality? Do you or someone on your team have an academic background and a track record of serving students well? If your answer to all or most of these questions is yes, starting a charter school might be an option for you.
The district should think about how a new charter school might bring a new type of school to the community. The Illinois State Charter School Commission is a great resource for districts considering opening a charter school. They have created a model Request for Proposals and many other helpful resources on their web page. Charter schools can complement district offerings and have more flexibility than other district schools do to offer a nimble and responsive school model. For the same reasons, they can be used to pilot innovations that the district may wish to spread to its existing schools down the road.
While there is a cap on the number of charter schools allowed by law in Illinois, there is still plenty of room for new charters under the current cap. That is because the cap of 120 charters includes multi-campus charter schools (the first 15 charters authorized in Chicago in the 1990s and early 2000s were allowed to have multiple campuses). Including the multi-campus charters, there are fewer than 50 charters operating in Chicago today (out of 75 allowed under the cap) and 15 charters operating in communities outside Chicago (out of 25 allowed under the cap).
Charter schools receive per pupil funding of 97% to 103% of the district’s Per Capita Tuition Charge (PCTC), a figure that approximates the cost of educating a general education student in the district. In addition, charters are eligible to receive categorical funding, such as special education funding and Title I funds, based on the students enrolled in the school (for example, students with special needs or low-income students). Charters do not receive any funding specifically for facilities in Illinois, so they must pay for facilities out of their per pupil funding. It’s important to note that PCTC is different from and lower than Operating Expenses Per Pupil (OEPP).
Visit the Illinois Local Education Agency Retrieval Network (ILEARN) to find school district per student information, including the PCTC.
The federal government offers startup funding through the Charter Schools Program (CSP). Through 2019 or 2020, newly authorized Illinois charters can apply for CSP sub-grants of up to $950,000 over three years through the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Find more details here. Once ISBE’s grant ends, Illinois charter founders can apply directly to the U.S. Department of Education for CSP funds here.
In addition, some charter designers have received startup funding from the following sources:
Charter founders also often tap into their personal networks, such as by making direct asks or using online funding tools (e.g., GoFundMe) to solicit startup funds from friends, family and more distant connections. They can also research and cultivate relationships with local businesses or community-based organizations, individual donors and foundations (such as family foundations) that may lead to funding or partnership opportunities.
Please answer the following questions to help INCS staff keep you moving forward. All shared information is confidential.
Senior Director of Charter Growth & Support