What is a charter school?

Charter schools operate in tandem with the public schools in their district. Charter schools have their own Governance Boards made up of staff, parents, and community members. It is a public school that does not charge tuition or discriminate in admission and attendance is voluntary.

As further explained on the Department of Public Instruction’s website, a charter school

  • Is exempted from most local and state educational laws

  • Provides a program of elementary or secondary education or both

  • Is non-sectarian, not affiliated with a religious school in any form

  • Does not charge tuition

  • Complies with federal laws related to special education and discrimination

  • Admits students on the basis of a lottery if more apply than can be served

  • Complies with state and federal audit requirements

  • Meets all local, state and federal health and safety requirements

How does the charter process work?

The founders created a petition to request that the school board establish a charter school. The petition needed to be signed by 10% of the teachers in the district; in this case TRCCS needed 8 signatures. Within 30 days of receiving the petition, the school board is required to hold a public hearing on the petition. The school board then had 30 days to grant or deny the petition. The Tomorrow River School District approved the petition of the TRCCS on January 1st, 2012. Once the board granted the petition, the next step is to contract with the founders to operate the school. The Charter Contract includes all provisions specified in the petition as well as the amount to be paid to the charter school during each school year. The Charter Contract has been through the initial approval process by both the TRCCS Governance Board and the Tomorrow River School Board and should be signed by all parties in March of 2013.

What is the purpose of a charter school?

From the DPI’s website:

“Wisconsin established charter schools to foster an environment for innovation and parental choice. They can exist as living laboratories that influence the larger public school system and introduce an element of competition within that system. Charter schools are created with the best elements of regular public schools in mind. Their leaders may experiment with different instructional theories, site-based management techniques, and other innovations. They learn, sometimes by trial and error, what works best for their student population. Regular schools can observe and learn from what happens in the charter school and make similar improvements. Through this process, the entire public school system is continually challenged to improve itself.

Wisconsin also wants each charter school to meet the special needs and interests of its community, parents, and students. This is what makes each charter school unique. While many goals for educating and preparing children are similar, each charter school fulfills a specific local need in education. Some charter schools offer a choice to parents and students in the area of curriculum, teaching methodology, and classroom structure. Others work to keep that small population of at-risk students from falling through the cracks, offering counseling, personal attention, and support. In districts with charter schools, the community, school boards, and parents have identified their public education needs and have established charters that meet them.”

How many charter schools are in Wisconsin?

There are around 250 charter schools in the state. There are currently more than 50 Waldorf-inspired public charter schools in the US, most of them K-8 charter schools. The Tomorrow River School District will have the first Waldorf-inspired charter school in Wisconsin. There was a public Waldorf School in Milwaukee which is no longer operating. Furthermore, there are currently 1,000 Waldorf schools in 91 countries. In doing your own research, you may find these numbers vary. This is because there are schools in different stages of development and sometimes developing Waldorf schools get included in the total and sometimes not.

What grades does the charter school consist of?

The charter school accommodates pre-kindergarten through 6th grade. The charter school may expand to 8th grade depending on interest and space.  There are such things as Waldorf high schools, but at this time we do not anticipate accommodating those grades.

What will differentiate the charter school from the Amherst public school?

The charter school teaches an adapted form of the Waldorf method guided by the core principles of Public Waldorf Education. Visit our Education page to find out more.

How is a charter school funded?

The district receives the typical per-pupil funding for charter students as received for Amherst Public School students. The TRCCS is an Instrumentality of the Tomorrow River School District. This type of charter has School District employees as staff who stay in the Wisconsin Retirement System and are supervised by district administration. The TRCCS has applied for 501c-3 non-profit status and all monies garnered through fundraising go into a separate, non-district, account. Most charter schools in Wisconsin are Instrumentalities. See DPI Charter School Yearbook for details.  http://dpi.wi.gov/sms/pdf/2011-12yearbook.pdf

How are teachers paid or educated?

Teachers are paid by the school district and are be DPI certified. If they don’t already have Waldorf certification they will receive additional training from a Waldorf training program within a 5 year time period. Our need for teachers will increase as the school grows. Please visit our employment page to find out what positions we are currently hiring for.

How will children be accepted into the charter school?

The enrollment is open to the public. Any interested parents will need to fill out an application. Please click application to download an application. Once maximum capacity is met, all students will enter a lottery. Siblings of students and founders’ children are guaranteed acceptance. Teachers’ children are also guaranteed admittance up to 10% of the student population. Ultimately, class sizes will be similar to the public school and follow District policy.

How does the charter school address students with special needs?

The Waldorf style of education has shown to work very well for children with special needs. All children go through the IEP process which includes a meeting with Tomorrow River School District Staff, there will be a recommendation made to the families on the best course of action for their child. The TRCCS will not deny access to any child for any reason.

Why should I support a charter school in my district?

We carefully chose to approach the Tomorrow River School District based on the fact that the Amherst area is a progressive, creative community. Its beautiful landscape and like-minded organizations make it an appealing place for families to relocate to. Having a Waldorf-inspired charter school in the Tomorrow River School District sets the community and school district apart from not only the surrounding districts, but also the entire state as this is the only, tuition-free, Waldorf-inspired, public charter school in the state. (There are currently 5 Waldorf schools in WI, they are located in: Madison, Pewaukee, an Elementary and High School in Viroqua, and Milwaukee.) A Waldorf charter school will offer an educational option for parents in the community. Some children that don’t do well in traditional school settings excel in the Waldorf method. Children, who have comprehension issues, or trouble concentrating, do well in this style of schooling. We believe that the Tomorrow River School District is the right place for a Waldorf-inspired charter school.