Charter Termination & Non-Renewal
Most initial charter contracts or for a term of 5 years, although a high-performing charter may be granted a longer initial contract term. However, whether the contract is for 5 years or longer, a district may choose to either terminate or non-– renew a charter contract at the end of the contract or, in the case of termination, during the contract. There is also an immediate termination process that a district may use if they make a determination there is a health safety welfare reason to terminate a contract immediately.
Whether it is an immediate termination, a normal termination, or a nonrenewal, a charter school now has a right to a hearing about the District’s grounds for termination or nonrenewal. Before the Legislature change the law districts were allowed to terminate charter contracts with very little due process.
In most cases if the district right due notice of intent to terminate or nonrenewal you will have a certain number of days within which request a hearing and once a hearing is requested the matter will be referred to DOAH, the division of administrative hearings for an independent Administrative Law Judge to conduct a hearing. This hearing is the equivalent of a full trial, just with the judge instead of a jury, so there is discovery and legal argument that will be made the same as in a normal trial. There are some fairly short time lines within which the hearing as to be conducted, so make sure that close attention is paid to timelines if your charter is in a position to need a hearing.
After the hearing is completed, the ALJ will complete a propose recommended order, as to whether there was good cause to terminate or nonrenew the charter contract. This recommended order will then go to the school board for final action, where in most cases they will be required to accept the recommended order. There is then the possibility of further appeal to the relevant District Court of Appeal by either the school board or the charter school.
School districts are used to taking cases to DOAH, for example most of their teacher discipline cases are taken to DOAH, so any charter school want to make sure that they have counsel involved that’s comfortable and familiar with the door process – otherwise the charter will typically find itself in a disadvantage because of unfamiliarity with the process.
If you think that your charter is going to be subject to a notice of intent to terminate or a notice of nonrenewal, please talk to us as soon as you have concerns about this, even before you receive any notice, for this will give us the best opportunity to try to resolve the matter in your favor if that is possible.