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Can a charter school charge tuition?
Unlike traditional school districts, a charter school may not charge tuition. Charter schools are, by statute, free and open to all Michigan residents.
Must ALL state and federal education dollars be sent directly to the authorizing body of the charter school?
No. The law requires only those payments under the State School Aid Act be sent directly to the authorizing bodies. A charter school may receive federal grant funds directly from the Michigan Department of Education by following the same procedures that traditional school districts are required to follow.
Is a charter school considered a constituent district in intermediate school districts for purposes of area vocational/career and technical education millage, and do charter school students have access to the programs and services provided with those funds?
Yes, just as with any other traditional school district located in the intermediate school district. Services funded through vocational/career and technical education millage dollars must be allocated to a charter school on the same proportional basis used for other constituent districts. The program must meet the necessary guidelines and be approved by the Office of Career and Technical Education. Please call (517) 241-5342 with specific questions.
What are the common responsibilities of charter schools to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) as they relate to financial reporting?
- Charter schools are required to follow a common fiscal year. That year begins July 1 and ends June 30 of the following calendar year (MCL 380.1133).
- Charter schools are required to follow accepted accounting principles for governmental entities. The Michigan School Accounting Manual addresses many of these principles and should be referenced. Specific questions related to school accounting issues may be directed to the Office of State Aid and School Finance.
- Charter schools are required to follow a uniform chart of accounts. The chart of accounts is found in the Michigan Public School Accounting Manual. MCL 380.1281 of the Revised School Code requires the Michigan Department of Education to: “Prescribe appropriate uniform pupil and finance accounting records for use in school districts, public school academies, and intermediate school districts and promulgate rules for their adoption.”
- Charter schools are to submit an annual comprehensive financial report into the Financial Information Database (FID) maintained by the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI) using the chart of accounts prescribed in the Michigan School Accounting Manual. The report is submitted electronically and filed with MDE by November 15 each year. The penalty for noncompliance is the withholding of state school aid payments. See MCL 388.1618(2) and MCL 388.1618(5) of the State School Aid Act.
- Charter schools are required to have an independent audit of their financial accounting records conducted at least annually by a certified public accountant. The audit reports are filed with MDE no later than November 15 of each year. Guidance for the audit is given in the Michigan School Auditing Manual. The penalty for noncompliance is the withholding of state school aid payments. See MCL 388.1618(2) and MCL 388.1618(5) of the State School Aid Act.
- All charter school financial audits are subject to Government Auditing Standards (GAS). The book describing the standards is available online. Please visit Government Auditing Standards.
- Charter school boards shall adopt a budget before the commencement of the fiscal year, using the minimum levels of appropriation described in Section IV of the Michigan School Accounting Manual.
- Charter schools are not to adopt or operate under a “deficit budget” (State School Aid Act, MCL 388.1702. MDE closely monitors entities that violate this statute). In the event a charter school falls into a deficit, they are required to file a deficit elimination plan and post it with the transparency items under “the mitten.” Deficit elimination plans are approved and monitored by the Financial Management Office within MDE. Please visit Deficit District Information for more information. It is important to note that fiscal viability is one of the criteria for reauthorization, and their authorizer may close schools that run a deficit.
- Charter schools should always seek competent, independent legal counsel before entering into any binding legal or borrowing agreement.
- Charter schools must provide the same transparency information on their website that all public schools provide [MCL 388.1618(2) and MCL 380.503(6)(m)].
Are there federal charter school dollars to help start an academy?
As of September 2023, there are no federal start-up grants available in the State of Michigan. However, private funders such as the Walton Foundation may have funds available. Typically, charter advocacy organizations such as the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA) can provide information on startup funding.