IRS Regulation on Charter School Employees in State Retirement Plans – Update

In November 2011, the IRS published and advance notice of a proposed regulation regarding when an entity is an agent or instrumentality of the state or local political subdivision for the purposes of it employees being eligible to participate in a government retirement plan.  The proposed definition would have impacted whether charter school employees could be part of state retirement plans – like TRA and PERA.

At the time, the Association asked schools to send comments to the IRS and to Minnesota’s Congressional Delegation about how the proposed rule would have affected charter school employees in Minnesota.

Nationally, the IRS received over 2.000 comments just on the how the proposed regulation would affect charter schools. In response to the flood of comments, the IRS is now considering issuing guidance that would take into account the “special and unique nature of charters…”, in terms of the proposed regulation.

To read more about the Proposed Guidance on Charter Schools.



Charter School Leadership Skills Assessment Seminar

We are excited that 12 individuals will be participating in the 2015  Charter School Leadership Skills Assessment Seminar taking at the University of St. Thomas today and tomorrow, with the final day on April 16th.

The 3-day seminar was developed by the University of St. Thomas in partnership with the MN Association of Charter Schools. The Charter School Leadership Skills Assessment Seminar is an authentic assessment experience tailored to the challenges of leading a charter school.The goal of the seminar is to allow current or aspiring charter school leaders an opportunity to assess their skills and competencies, using real life work situations to demonstrate these skills and then create a professional development plan to improve and strengthen their skills and competencies.

The 2016 Charter School Leadership Skills Assessment Seminar is tentatively scheduled to take place in late winter/early spring of 2016.

Friday Facts – About Minnesota Charter Schools

2014 -2015 – NUMBER OF SCHOOLS

  • 158 – Operational Schools
  •   19 – Pre-Operational Schools Approved to Open Fall of 2015
  •     1 - Pre-Operational School Approved to Open Fall of 2016


  • 47,471 – Charter School Students Enrolled in Grades K-12  (10.1. 2014 Count Reported to MDE)


  • 26,308 – Charter School Students that Qualify for Free and Reduced Meals – (55.1% of All Charter School StudentsPublic Schools Statewide – 38.6%)
  • Number of Charter Schools with % of Free & Reduced Meal Students above Public Schools Statewide Average –  111 Schools or 70%
  • Number of Charter Schools with % of Free & Reduced Meal Students below Public Schools Statewide Average – 47 Schools or 30%
  • Charter School with Highest % of Free & Reduced Meal Students – Lincoln International School, Minneapolis – 100%
  • Charter School with Lowest % of Free & Reduced Meal Students – Math and Science Academy, Woodbury1.88%
  • Number of Charter Schools with more than 90% Free & Reduced Meal Students – 41 Schools26% of Charter Schools
  • Number of Charter School between 80-89% Free & Reduced Meal Students – 18 Schools – 12% of Charter Schools
  • Number of Charter School between 70-79% Free & Reduced Meal Students – 10 Schools –  6% of Charter Schools
  • Number of Charter School between 60-69% Free & Reduced Meal Students- 10 Schools – 6% of Charter Schools
  • Number of Charter School between 50%-59% Free & Reduced Meal Students-17 Schools – 11% of Charter Schools
  • Number of Charter School between 40-49% Free & Reduced Meal Students – 14 Schools – 9% of Charter Schools
  • Number of Charter School between 30-39% Free & Reduced Meal Students – 10 Schools – 6% of Charter Schools
  • Number of Charter School between 20-29% Free & Reduced Meal Students –  9 Schools – 6% of Charter Schools
  • Number of Charter School between 10-19% Free & Reduced Meal Students – 21 Schools – 13% of Charter Schools
  • Number of Charter Schools with less than 10% Free & Reduced Meal Students – 8 Schools5% of Charter Schools



Transparency in the Purchase of Group Health Insurance by Charter Schools

In the last couple of weeks the Association has received a number of calls from schools about what the regulations are regarding the purchase of group health insurance by charter schools, given the new law enacted by the legislature in 2014. The calls have been generated by the fact that there are insurance brokers telling charter schools that they must follow the provisions of the new law which apply to the purchase of group health insurance in traditional school districts.

The problem is that those insurance brokers/agents are misinforming charter schools. (The only charter schools that must follow the provisions for traditional school districts are charter schools that have collectively bargaining units). There are different provisions for charter schools.

The 2014 session of the Minnesota Legislature did indeed pass legislation to ensure accountability and transparency in the purchase of group health insurance by public schools. The original version of the legislation would have required charter schools to comply with a whole host of requirements and procedures relative to the purchase of group health insurance and brought charter schools under a series of laws which charters have been exempt from since the beginning.

During the 2014 session, the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools negotiated language with the House and Senate authors and Education Minnesota, which sought the legislation, to ensure that charters did not fall under that series of laws, but still met the goal of accountability and transparency in the purchase of group health insurance.

To assist schools in understanding the requirements for charters the Association is sending out a list of the actual Requirements For Charter Schools Regarding The Purchase of Group Health Insurance to all charter schools in Minnesota.

Member Schools are also are receiving access to a SAMPLE POLICY – The Purchase of Group Health Insurance.





Association to Host Two Meetings on Proposed Desegregation Rule that Would Include Charters

The MN Association of Charter Schools will host two meetings next week (Monday, March 16th and Thursday,  March 19th) on the Proposed Desegregation Integration Rule and How the Rule Would Impact Charter Schools. Charter schools, as schools of choice, have been exempt from the current rule, since the beginning of the charter school movement.

Under the proposed rule, 104 charter schools would automatically be required to comply with the Desegregation Rule, and another 20 charter schools would need to comply if the number of protected students enrolled in the school increased by between 1-10 students, and the other 34 charter schools could be required to comply if there is a larger increases in protected students, or by how a charter school’s enrollment of protected class students compares to that of the next closest public school. (That school could be in a district other than the one in which the charter school is located.)

The purpose of these two meetings is to craft a Charter School Response to the Proposed Rule.

MACS Board Adopts Membership Dues Formula and Amends Association By-laws


Earlier this year the MACS Board adopted a revised membership dues formula the 2015-2016 school year. Under the formula the dues per student will stay at .042 per pupil unit of general basic revenue. The minimum dues rate will be maintained at .40 of one pupil unit and the maximum dues rate will drop from 1.27 to 1.25 one pupil unit of general basic revenue.

In terms of real dollars this means for 2015-2016 the membership dues will be:

  • $24.50 per pupil or an increase of $.10 per student from $24.40 in 2014-2015
  • Minimum dues will be $2,335 or a total increase of $15 dollars from $2320 in 2014-2015,
  • Maximum dues will be $7,290 or a decrease of $50 dollars from $7,340

NOTE: While the dues formula rates stayed the same for the per student and minimum dues, the general basic revenue for schools went up in FY15 – thus the small increase in the actual dues.

The specific 2015-2016 membership dues for each school is based on the October, 2014 student count the school submitted to MDE.



In February, the MACS Board amended the Association’s By-laws to clarify the individuals eligible to be Association board members, to be any school administrator from a member school.

The board also clarified that process for filling vacancies on the board. The changes reduce the time the board has to fill a board vacancy to 45 days, and requires that any vacancy that occurs less than 90 days before the regular board election to be filled by a vote of the membership in that upcoming election. These changes are designed to improve the governance of the Association. The Board will be looking at other potential changes in the Association’s governance policies in the coming months to strengthen governance and encourage member engagement.


NEWS About Charters & Charters in the News – March 10, 2015


PACT Charter School, Ramsey – According to the latest Minnesota Statewide Longitudinal Education Data System (SLEDS) report PACT has the 8th Highest Percentage of Graduates Enrolled in Post- Secondary School for schools with graduating classes of more than 50 students in the state.

NEW SCHOOLS – According to the latest numbers from MDE 19 new charter schools have been approved to open in the fall of 2015 and 1 new charter school has been approved to open in the fall of 2016. Together – these schools estimate a first year enrollment will be just over 3,800 students.
Note: Not all of the 2015 schools may open this fall – as the opening of a school depends on the school having everything in place to begin operations.


Rochester STEM, Rochester – Students were featured in a Rochester Post-Bulletin story on February 23, entitled “Spoken word pieces chosen for book” about how poetry written by Rochester STEM students have been published in a statewide anthology of poems.


Idaho – The Albertson Family Foundation last week announced four-year multi-million dollar grant to an Idaho charter school management corporation – GEM Innovation Schools – which plans to open 4 schools in the state. The plan calls for 3 brick and mortar schools and one virtual school.

Maryland – The State Senate Education Committee recently heard the Governor’s Charter School Bill that would loosen regulations on charters to allow them more authority in hiring and firing, be able to set admissions criteria and provide them with more funding. The legislation is being opposed by Senate Democrats and the Maryland State Education Association.

Ohio – Last week the Ohio State Auditor called on the state legislature which is considering a major overhaul of the state’s charter school law to increase accountability, testifying that there is “a broken system of governance” in charter schools. He made a series of recommendations including: prohibiting the Ohio Dept. of Education from sponsoring schools; prohibiting traditional school districts from sponsoring conversion schools, and having a state place a lien on charter school buildings to ensure the state’s interest in the facility.