What is a charter school?

Charter schools are publicly funded and are not private schools. They are open to all students, are committed to improving public education, demonstrate a record of student achievement, and have specific educational missions and focuses.

Charter schools are public schools created by a group of parents, teachers, or community leaders who see an educational need in their community and want to meet that need. To operate, charter founders must submit an application for approval by the State Charter School Board or the board of a school district. Like other public schools, charter schools may serve students from Kindergarten through 12th grade.

What is the purpose of a charter school?

Charter schools offer parents and students additional choices about where students attend school and the school’s curricular emphasis. They allow educators freedom to try new strategies to inspire students and to experiment with innovative ways of educating students. Also, charter schools allow individuals and organizations outside of the traditional education system to create and run public schools.

Can anyone attend a charter school?

Yes, like other public schools, charter schools must be open to every child regardless of race, religion, disability or academic ability. However, many charter schools have specific educational missions focusing on particular topics or students with particular needs. Also, charters have a cap on enrollment. HMCS will use a randomized lottery process for the enrollment and registration of students.

Why would/should a parent choose a charter school for their child?

Charter schools, by design, offer innovative curriculum, greater flexibility and accountability, and more opportunities for parents to participate significantly in school governance and operation.

What are the main differences between charter schools and traditional public schools?

A Charter School becomes it’s own school district which provides greater flexibility in curriculum adoption, local input, more parental involvement, and a need to specialize in the academy’s area of chosen focus. Students tend to be motivated by an interest in the focus or teaching method of the school instead of proximity to the nearest traditional public school. Charter Schools have a cap on enrollment legislated by the State of Utah, which leads to more flexibility in the classroom.

How are charter schools funded?

Charter schools are funded on the principle that state funds follow the student. A differentiated WPU is applied to Charter School students. In distributing funds under the Minimum School Program Act, to charter schools, charter school pupils shall be weighted, where applicable, as follows:

The vast majority of funding comes through the WPU. In addition, the legislature appropriates funds each year to replace some of the local property tax revenues that are not available to charter schools. Charter schools may also apply for state and federal start-up funds and specialized funds if qualifying students are served in approved programs.

A charter school may not charge tuition or require students or parents to make donations and is subject to the same rules regarding school fees as other public schools.

How charter schools are funded is subject to changes in legislation.

Utah public schools are partially funded from revenue collected through property taxes. Much of the state of Utah, however, is federal land and property tax revenues are not collected from federal lands. The U.S. Congress, in exchange for not taxing federal land, gave lands to Utah schools at statehood to help compensate for the lost property tax revenue. The lands are held in a legal trust for Utah public schools. Utah public schools own 3.3 million acres of Utah land. The lands are managed by the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration and must, by law, be used to generate money for public schools. The money is put in a permanent savings account, which is never spent, but invested by Utah’s State Treasurer. An Investment Advisory Committee appointed by education representatives act in an advisory capacity to the State Treasurer. The interest earned from the permanent fund now goes to each public school in the state. School and district-level committees prepare plans, approved by local school boards that identify an academic need and a proposed solution using the annual dividend. Distribution of the funds is based upon student enrollment numbers. The program reimburses schools based upon the previous school year’s enrollment.

How much parent involvement is required?

Parent involvement is a crucial element in student success. HighMark Charter School asks that families volunteer a minimum of 20 hours per academic year. Please note this expectation is per family, and not based on the number of students enrolled per family.

Do charter schools have the same testing requirements as traditional public schools?

Yes. Charter Schools are public schools and therefore have the same requirements as all Utah State public schools in regards to student testing.

What are HMCS's credential requirements for teachers?

Consistent with all public schools in Utah, all of our teachers will be licensed, certified teachers or be qualified to teach under the USOE’s Alternative Route to Licensure Program, or otherwise authorized through the Utah State Office of Education.

Who is managing the services and support for HighMark Charter School?

Academica West provides charter schools with comprehensive services and support. The company maintains a reputation of excellence and currently serves twelve operational and two planned charter schools throughout Utah. Academica West ensures that each of its client charter schools is professionally managed and operated in compliance with local, state and federal laws/regulations. This begins with facilitating the completion and timely filing of all financial and programmatic reports to proper governmental agencies.

In addition, Academica West provides human resources development, board trainings, payroll, annual financial audit support, professional accounting services, internal control development, and curriculum support along with a list of many other services. Most importantly, Academica West will work diligently to ensure the vision of HighMark Charter School is faithfully and effectively implemented.

Why an Elementary?

When looking at the configuration of a school it is always beneficial to establish a strong school culture. By having a cadre of students that will move from the Elementary to the Jr. High it will allow students to help with the integration of the new students coming into the Jr. High. This is the real strength of a K-9 school.

Students moving from the Elementary will have had exposure to business integration, allowing them to work with the new Jr. High students from an exciting and involved perspective.

Why a Junior High?

Currently, Junior High students in the surrounding area are bused to a neighboring area and there is a need in the community for a local Jr. High. Although the surrounding school districts are reasonably and responsibly trying to meet demand, more schools will be needed to meet the rapid growth of the area – especially a need for a Junior High.

HighMark Charter School is addressing this need by having a larger Junior High than Elementary allowing for more students to access the Junior High program. We feel we have addressed the need for a Jr. High in the area and created a viable K-9 school model that will allow all students to become invested in a positive business integrated school culture.

Where can I get additional information on charter schools?