623-465-4910

35812 N. 7th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85086

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What is a charter school?


Stepping Stones Academy believes it is important for families to understand how AZ charter schools operate, since laws vary from state to state.

A charter school is a public school founded by one or more individuals. Two main purposes of charter schools are to improve student achievement and provide parents with educational choices. The founders sign a fifteen-year contract with the AZ State Board for Charter Schools.

How are charter schools started in Arizona? 
The first step is to submit an application to the State Board for Charter Schools, which includes the school’s academic focus, projected budget, and curriculum outline. The State Board reviews the application and determines its approval or rejection. Upon approval the owners prepare for the school opening, such as finding a site, purchasing furniture, and hiring teachers. After opening, the owners are responsible for ensuring the required rules and regulations are followed.

Mrs. Short and Mrs. Alliger started planning Stepping Stones Academy in October, 1997, and submitted their application to the State Board in May, 1998. The application was approved in August, 1998. For the next year - August, 1998 through August, 1999 - Mrs. Short and Mrs. Alliger selected a site for the school, hired certified teachers, purchased furniture and equipment, ordered curriculum materials, and completed school construction. In June, 1999, a ground breaking celebration was held at the school’s site. The school opened its doors for the first time on September 7, 1999.

Are charter schools part of a school district?
Charter schools are their own educational institutions, and are not part of a school district. Charter school operators report directly to the Department of Education and State Board for Charter Schools.

Stepping Stones Academy is its own educational institution. Stepping Stones Academy is not part of a school district, including Deer Valley and Cave Creek Unified School Districts. This means Stepping Stones Academy does not follow the school calendar, policies, or curriculum of other schools. Stepping Stones Academy abides by the rules and regulations set forth by the Department of Education and State Board for Charter Schools and reports directly to these two groups.

How is funding the same for charter and district schools?
State funding for charter and district schools is similar in three main ways. Charter and district schools both receiving funding (1) based on enrollment numbers and rate of student attendance; (2) from the state-funded Proposition 301 program; and (3) through the tax credit program.

Stepping Stones Academy receives state-funding based on student enrollment and attendance. For each day a child attends school, Stepping Stones Academy receives money for the child for that day. When a child does not attend school, Stepping Stones Academy does not receive money for the child for that day. The money received for student attendance is used for the school’s operational expenses, classroom supplies, and curriculum materials. Stepping Stones Academy receives money from the Proposition 301 fund, which helps support educational programs, and receives contributions from the tax credit program, which helps with field trips and technology equipment.

How is funding different for charter and district schools?
Funding for charter and district schools is different in several ways, including: (1) district schools receive money from property taxes, bonds and levies, and state funding for new buildings and building improvements. Charter schools do not receive money from any of these sources.

Aside from funding received for student enrollment, Proposition 301 fund, and tax credit program, all other money for Stepping Stones Academy comes from private donations, grants, and fundraisers. Money from property taxes, bonds and levies, and site-improvement funds are not received by Stepping Stones Academy.

What is the role of the governing board in a charter school?
Charter schools must have a governing board, but the structure of the governing board varies with each school. It is the responsibility of the school’s founders to establish a board that supports the philosophy of the school, determine the total number of board members, and decide the roles and responsibilities of the governing board. Charter schools are required to follow the Open Meetings Law when conducting their board meetings, which includes posting an agenda and recording the minutes of each meeting. When Ms. Alliger submitted their application to the State Board for Charter Schools in 1998, they outlined the structure of the Stepping Stones Academy Governing Board. The governing board includes four to six people. The members annually review and revise their roles and responsibilities. The Stepping Stones Academy Governing Board follows the Open Meetings Law, including posting its agenda within the required time frame.

What rules must charter schools follow?
Charter schools must have a governing board, but the structure of the governing board is determined by the school’s founders. Charter schools are required to follow the Open Meetings Law.


As part of the AZ public school system, what rules must charter schools follow?
Charter schools must follow the rules and regulations established by the Department of Education and State Board, including providing a free education to all children, fingerprinting every employee, following a state-approved school calendar, enforcing a student absence policy, providing services to special education children as per the Individual Education Plans (IEP’s), following state standards, administering state standardized tests, and completing an annual financial audit.

Stepping Stones Academy follows the state-mandated rules and regulations and reports to the Department of Education and State Board. As a public school Stepping Stones Academy:

Provides a free education to all enrolled children
Does not charge tuition for enrollment or attendance
Keeps copies of employee fingerprint clearance cards on file
Adopts a school calendar according to the state guidelines
Holds children accountable for school attendance
Provides services to children in the special education program per the IEP’s
Implements the AZ state standards within the school’s curriculum
Administers the state-mandated standardized tests (ie: Stanford 10 and AIMS tests)
Completes financial audits each year.

What additional policies must charter schools follow?
Charter schools agree to follow the terms outlined in their contracts, such as establishing a maximum enrollment number and following an educational focus. Charter school report directly to the Department of Education and State Board for Charter Schools, facing administrative accountability if areas of concern are identified. Charter schools not adhering to their contracts or failing to follow the required regulations may be issued a warning, placed on probation, or closed.
     
Stepping Stones Academy has a contract with the AZ State Board for Charter Schools. In its contract, the school agrees to:

Enroll a maximum number of 225 children in K-8th grades
Follow its state-approved curriculum and specialized programs providing children with instruction in the basic academics and opportunities to apply the academics to job, social, and life situations
Employ high academic standards
Submit required reports and participate in on-site visits by the Department of Education and State Board.

As a school committed to education, Stepping Stones Academy also chooses to:

Offer a full-day Kindergarten class at no extra cost to parents - Stepping Stones Academy is reimbursed by the state for only a half-day program
Enforce higher academic standards with a minimum grade of 70% (C) required in each class for children to be promoted to the next grade level  
Provide parents with frequent updates about the children’s academic progress
Implement a school uniform to create a more positive school environment, improve peer relations, and avoid inappropriate attire at school
Enforce a strict code of conduct teaching children the importance of being trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair, caring, and a good citizen
Establish a safe and family-oriented campus encouraging parent and community involvement.​​