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Charter Schools FAQ Section 7

Frequently asked questions regarding charter school attendance, accounting, and instructional time.

Attendance, Accounting, and Instructional Time

Responses to these frequently asked questions are advisory only. Charter schools and charter authorizers are encouraged to review the actual laws and regulations that provide the basis for these responses and consult with their own legal counsel regarding the application of any of these issues to a specific situation.


Q.1. How is average daily attendance calculated for a charter school?

California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 5, Section 11960 External link opens in new window or tab. [http://government.westlaw.com/linkedslice/default.asp?SP=CCR-1000] specifies that “Regular average daily attendance” is calculated by dividing a charter school’s total number of pupil days of attendance by the number of calendar days school is actually taught.

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Q.2. Is average daily attendance calculated differently for charter schools that operate multiple tracks?

Yes. The State Board of Education (SBE) has adopted a policy called “Charter School Average Daily Attendance-Alternative Calculation Method” that allows a waiver of CCR, Title 5, Section 11960 External link opens in new window or tab. [http://government.westlaw.com/linkedslice/default.asp?SP=CCR-1000] to be granted to a charter school to operate multi-tracks and to separately calculate average daily attendance for each track, rather than for the school as a whole. Waivers are usually requested by the charter authorizing entity on behalf of the charter school. For a charter school to receive full apportionment funding, it must offer a minimum of 175 days of instruction.

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Q.3. What are the instructional time requirements for a charter school?

A charter school must offer the minimum number of annual minutes by grade level as required by California Education Code (EC) sections 47612.5 External link opens in new window or tab. [http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=47001-48000&file=47610-47615] and 46201(a)(3). External link opens in new window or tab. [http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=46001-47000&file=46200-46206]

Charter schools are required to operate 175 days to receive a full apportionment but have scheduling flexibility for meeting the total annual minute requirement within the fiscal year.

Grade Level Annual Instructional Minutes
Kindergarten 36,000 minutes
Grades 1-3 50,400 minutes
Grades 4-8 54,000 minutes
Grades 9-12 64,800 minutes

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Q.4. What happens if a charter school fails to offer the minimum amount of instructional time?  

Prior to the enactment of EC Section 47612.6 External link opens in new window or tab. [http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=47001-48000&file=47610-47615], as added by Assembly Bill 1610 (Chapter 543, Statutes of 2005), failure to provide the minimum instructional time resulted in a financial penalty to a charter school. However, EC Section 47612.6 External link opens in new window or tab. [http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=47001-48000&file=47610-47615] now allows the SBE to waive the financial penalty (beginning with 2005-06 fiscal year) if the charter school agrees to make up the instructional time shortfall for twice the number of years that the shortfall existed.

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Q.5. How does a charter school in its first year of operation receive state apportionment funds?

EC Section 47652 External link opens in new window or tab. [http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=47001-48000&file=47650-47652] authorizes a charter school to receive advance apportionment based on an estimate of the average daily attendance for the current fiscal year, as certified by the local educational agency that approved its charter and the county office of education in which the charter authorizing entity is located.

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Q.6. Can a charter school in its first year of operation send the estimate of average daily attendance directly to the CDE?

No. The charter authorizing entity must certify the estimate of average daily attendance (ADA) on the charter schools annual information survey. If the charter school’s ADA estimate is different from that certified by the charter authorizing entity, the estimate must be certified by the county office of education. Once the ADA is certified, it is sent to the CDE. Continuing schools are not required to submit their ADA on the Information Sheet and Funding Survey.

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Q.7. Can a charter school that is adding a grade level qualify for advance apportionment?

Yes. EC Section 47652(b) External link opens in new window or tab. [http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=47001-48000&file=47650-47652] allows an advance apportionment for eligible charter schools. A charter school in its second or later year of operation that adds at least one grade level may be eligible to receive an expansion advance apportionment.

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Q.8. Will a new charter school that received the first special apportionment receive the November through January payment if it fails to report actual average daily attendance?

No. New charter schools are required to report actual attendance to the CDE for the first 20 school days in order to be included in the second special apportionment. Charter schools that do not submit attendance for that period must wait until the first principal apportionment in February for the next payment.

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Q.9. What happens if a new charter school failed to submit estimated attendance at the beginning of the year, but is able to report attendance for the first 20 school days? Would that school receive funding for the months November through January?

If the charter school has completed 20 school days prior to the attendance-reporting deadline, the charter school would receive funding for the months July through January, to equal 58 percent of the annual amount that is apportioned to all schools through January.

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Q.10. If the charter school is a conversion from an existing public school, as distinguished from a start-up school, can it still receive the special apportionment based on estimated average daily attendance?

Yes. A conversion charter school uses the same special apportionment process as a start-up charter school.

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Q.11. Traditional public schools are funded on the greater of current or prior year average daily attendance. Does this also apply to a charter school?

No. EC Section 47613.1 External link opens in new window or tab. [http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=47001-48000&file=47610-47615] specifies that charter school funding is based on current-year average daily attendance. EC Section 47664 External link opens in new window or tab. [http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=47001-48000&file=47660-47664] provides the one exception to this rule for a district that has converted all of its schools to charter status, becoming an all-charter district.

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Q.12. What are the attendance accounting requirements for nonclassroom-based instruction in a charter school?

Guidance and information on attendance accounting requirements for nonclassroom-based instruction is available on the Charter Schools Division Web page.

Charter schools should work directly with their auditor to develop appropriate and adequate record keeping and bookkeeping procedures to insure that the charter school remains compliant with both time value and contemporaneous record requirements.

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Questions: Charter School Staff | charters@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-6029 
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