The Top Shelf

Some Misconceptions about Charter Board Service

MISCONCEPTION: Charter school board members are “just volunteers.”

REALITY: Great responsibility comes with overseeing multimillion dollar budgets and more importantly, the futures of hundreds of children. Serving on a charter school board requires a significant investment of time, dedication, resources and passion. The commitment should not be taken lightly.

MISCONCEPTION: Charter school boards are comprised of ambitious individuals seeking to profit from “school reform.”

REALITY: Charter schools are operated independent of the local school system, but are public schools managed by nonprofit community board members overseen by their authorizer. Board members do not receive compensation for their services.

MISCONCEPTION: Charter school boards are irrelevant and serve at the whim of the principal or school leader.

REALITY: As a collective body, boards are the legal entity responsible for the charter. While day-to-day management is delegated to school leadership, the board is accountable in the eyes of the authorizer and the law.

MISCONCEPTION: Boards are the center of their own universe as they determine what’s best for their respective charter.

REALITY: While charter schools have some autonomy, boards must be compliant with state and federal laws, adhere to authorizer requirements and strive to deliver on the promises made in their charter contract. Bulletin 126, the state's charter policy, is not optional.

Charter Board Expectations

At minimum, charter boards have the following responsibilities:

  • Boards fulfill a legal responsibility. A board of directors is a legal requirement for a charter school organized as a nonprofit corporation. Boards provide oversight functions. In exchange for direct and indirect financial assistance from the state and federal government, state charter school legislation as well as non-profit corporation law requires that a group of individuals voluntarily serve on a board of directors and act as guardians of the "public trust." Oversight includes holding the school leader accountable for results and ensuring the organization is financially solvent.
  • Boards promote the charter school's mission. In addition to fulfilling legal requirements, a charter school needs a board of directors composed of individuals who support the school's mission, believe in it, and seek to promote it.

For a more detailed overview of charter board member responsibilities, click here