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Information for Authorizers

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The role of the charter school authorizer is critical to ensuring success and accountability for charter schools. Authorizers may be public school districts or one of the statutorily identified independent authorizers. Under Wisconsin law, pursuant to s. 118.40(3m), charter school authorizers must comply with the requirements below. Including adhering to the principles and standards for quality charter schools established by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). These principles and standards contain greater detail than the related statutory provisions. Under s. 118.40(3m), charter school authorizers must:

Charter school contract benchmark documents can be found in the Approve only high-quality charter school applications text box below.

Solicit and Evaluate Charter School Applications

The statutory provisions affecting authorizers do not specify requirements for soliciting and evaluating charter school applications. However, authorizers must consider the NACSA principles and standards for quality charter schools. These standards include requirements for a comprehensive application process and rigorous evaluation criteria. 

All independent authorizers shall notify the state superintendent of their intention to establish a charter school by February 1 of the prior academic year. A separate Letter of Intent must be submitted for each new school that will open in the upcoming academic year. Per statute, the Letter of Intent must include a “description of the school.” Independent authorizers should include the following in each Letter of Intent:

the name of the school;
model or focus of the charter school;
the school’s grade levels during its first year of operation;
proposed school location;
primary school contact person name, phone, and email; and
governing board legal entity name

Independent authorizers should submit the Letter(s) of Intent to DPI via email at and cc by February 1. It is preferred that Letter(s) of Intent arrive as signed PDF files.

Prior to commencing operations under either a new or renewed charter school contract, all charter schools must submit a signed copy of their contract to the department. 

Consider NACSA Principles and Standards

When contracting for the establishment of a charter school, authorizers must consider the principles and standards for quality charter schools established by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

Give Contract Preference to Charters Serving Children at Risk

When awarding charter contracts for the operation of charter schools, authorizers must give preference in awarding contracts to charter schools that serve children at risk. "Children at risk" means pupils in grades 5 to 12 who are at risk of not graduating from high school because they are dropouts or are 2 or more of the following:

  • One or more years behind their age group in the number of high school credits attained.
  • Two or more years behind their age group in basic skill levels.
  • Habitual truants, as defined in s. 118.16 (1) (a).
  • Parents.
  • Adjudicated delinquents.
  • Eighth grade pupils whose score in each subject area on the examination administered under s. 118.30 (1m) (am) 1. or 118.301 (3) was below the basic level, 8th grade pupils who failed the examination administered under s. 118.30 (1m) (am) 2. or 118.301 (3), and 8th grade pupils who failed to be promoted to the 9th grade.

"Dropout" means a child who ceased to attend school, does not attend a public, private, or tribal school, technical college, or home-based private educational program on a full-time basis, has not graduated from high school, and does not have an acceptable excuse under s. 118.15 (1) (b) to (d) or (3).

Approve only high-quality charter school applications

High quality charter school applications must meet identified educational needs and promote a diversity of educational choices.

Awarded contracts must include various provisions which are explained in the department's charter school contract review benchmarks.

Additionally, authorizers must consider the NACSA principles and standards. These standards outline requirements for rigorous decision making when approving charter school applications.

Monitor Performance and Compliance 

For each school under contract with an authorizer, authorizers must monitor performance and compliance with s. 118.40 in accordance with the terms of each charter school contract. Additionally, authorizers must consider the NACSA principles and standards. These standards outline requirements for performance evaluation and compliance monitoring.

Submit Annual Report to State Superintendent and Legislature

Annually, authorizers must submit, to the state superintendent and to the legislature under s. 13.172 (2), a report that includes all of the following:

1. An identification of each charter school operating under contract with the authorizer, each charter school that operated under a contract with the authorizer but had its contract non-renewed or revoked or that closed, and each charter school under contract with the authorizer that has not yet begun to operate.
2. The academic and financial performance of each charter school operated under contract with the authorizer.
3. The operating costs the authorizer incurred while fulfilling its statutory duties, detailed in an audited financial statement prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.
4. The services the authorizer provided to the charter schools under contract with the authorizer and an itemized accounting of the cost of the services.

The Annual Authorizer Report to the State Superintendent and Legislature is due December 15, 2023.

Authorizers may choose to use the department's technical assistance and templates in order to comply with this requirement.