Review sample school proposals and write your own
In this step, your team will research what is required in a proposal to a state, district, or charter authorizer for a new or converted teacher-powered school. Most of this information can be gathered from the approving body’s website, but don’t forget to use your networks to learn what might not be formally written down that makes an application rise to the top or be automatically discarded.
This section aims to help you in your process by featuring a number of sample documents to help you consider what language and ideas to include in your proposal. Teams that have written proposals in the past report that they used information they gleaned from various sample proposals to develop their own.
Some areas of autonomy will be secured, enhanced, or otherwise codified through approval of your proposal. But keep in mind that in addition to the school proposal, you may need to work with the state, district, charter authorizer, or union/association to formalize your team’s arrangement for collective autonomy. Often, a charter school proposal turns into the school’s charter agreement and teachers’ autonomy is written in. In other cases, the proposal may make clear how the team will operate with autonomy but the autonomy itself will be formalized in a separate agreement or set of agreements. (See learn about securing collective teacher autonomy.)
For example, after a pilot school proposal is approved in Boston or Los Angeles, a pilot school agreement in the form of an MOU (memorandums of understanding) is arranged between the school district and the union. The MOU grants five areas of autonomy, including: staffing, budget, curriculum & assessment, governance, and school calendar.
In addition to the MOU, teachers at each Boston and Los Angeles pilot school collectively write an Election-to-Work Agreement (EWA) for their site on an annual basis that outlines the working conditions at the school. This is an opportunity for teachers to decide to exempt themselves from some aspects of the collective bargaining agreement. For example, at their own will, they might expand work hours or require teachers to become National Board certified.
The EWA is voted on by the teachers at the site (in Los Angeles, these EWAs are also approved by their union local, UTLA), and teachers who do not agree to work under the conditions will enter the district’s hiring pool and default to the working conditions outlined in the existing collective bargaining agreement. Often teams include their EWA for the school’s first year in their proposal. This is the case in some of the sample proposals included below.
There are two steps for ensuring you are securing all the autonomy you need. First, comb through the plans your team made throughout the Storming stage, and—as a team—carefully consider what areas of autonomy you will need to achieve your mission, vision, values, and goals. Then, make sure you’ve covered all the bases in your proposal and/or in any additional documents you learn you will need through your research on this website and within your own state, district, charter authorizer, or union.
It might also be helpful at this time to find a school start-up check list for your state. These are usually provided by charter authorizers, but can be helpful to your team whether you are starting a charter or not. There are many details provided in these lists that this guide does not cover, and you should be sure you are covering every angle. This sample Start-Up Tasks and Timeline from Novation Education Options, a charter authorizer in Minnesota, will give you an idea.