FAQs

Here is a list Frequently Asked Questions which will aid you in your understanding of how we operate. If you have additional questions, please reach out to us.

What is a charter school?

A charter school is an independently run public school operating under a contract with the state. Charters exercise increased flexibility in their operations in exchange for greater accountability for performance. A school's "charter" is a contract detailing the school's mission, grades served, instructional model, and how the school will measure student performance. Since charter schools receive public funding, they must have open enrollment, may not charge tuition, and must participate in state assessments and federal accountability programs.

In Arizona, charter schools were created to improve student achievement and provide additional academic choices for parents and their children. Charters are largely funded by the State of Arizona and are held accountable by the Arizona Department of Education, the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, and the State Board of Education. 

American Leadership Academy, Inc. is a non-profit corporation and has been designated by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization. ALA was granted a charter by the State of Arizona in 2009.  ALA is a tuition-free charter school serving students in grades K-12, and is open to all students.                                                  
 

How is ALA different from other schools?

Choice:
As a public school of choice, ALA was created for a single purpose - to support the family; and we are proud to be the choice of thousands of Arizona families.   Our charter allows us the flexibility to deliver exactly what families want - the best educational experience in a moral and wholesome environment. 

Environment:
At ALA, we believe that the right environment accelerates learning; that's why we teach our RAISE leadership values (Respect, Accountability, Integrity, Service, Excellence) at every grade level. These values help us maintain a moral and wholesome environment which enhances a student's overall experience.   

Academics:
Furthermore, every ALA school utilizes data-driven instruction, an accelerated curriculum,  and has a faculty of credentialed teachers and leaders focused on helping every student succeed. As a result, our students consistently outperform the state averages on the AZMerit and AIMS assessments. 

One major difference between ALA and district schools relates to funding. ALA is funded based on enrollment levels and receives funding from the state on a per pupil basis.

In contrast, district schools are funded from sources not available to ALA. For example, in addition to state funding, districts receive money from local property taxes, levies and voter-approved overrides. Districts are subsidized further for construction (i.e. School Facilities Board), repairs, transportation, and debt financing. ALA absorbs these costs without the benefit of any of these additional sources. 

When you add it all up, ALA receives approximately $1,500 LESS per student, or from $36,000 to $65,000 less per classroom than district schools. 

 

Is ALA a non-profit organization?

Yes. ALA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which requires that its officers, directors, or any other private individuals can receive no unfair earnings or benefits. Additionally, a non-profit organization can not be owned by any individual. ALA is proud of the fact that its unpaid Board of Directors is independent and extremely qualified. ALA exists for the purpose of providing "the best educational experience to as many students as possible in a moral and wholesome environment."

What is a CMO/EMO?

A Charter Management Organization (CMO) or Education Management Organization (EMO) is an entity that contracts with a charter school to provide administrative and support services to the school. These organizations often provide back-office functions so that Charters can take advantage of economies of scale. CMOs and EMOs offer a wide range of support services including HR, Marketing, IT, Professional Development and Training, Curriculum Development, Transportation, Food Services, etc., and can play an important role in the scalability of a Charter by enabling the replication of models that work, creating economies of scale, and building support structures for schools they serve.  Generally, CMOs are non-profit entities while EMOs are for-profit entities.

Does ALA contract with a CMO/EMO?

ALA contracts with Charter One, LLC for administrative and support services. 

Charter One is a team of highly skilled individuals with expertise in the operation of charter schools. Charter One provides support and administrative services in the areas of: HR, Computer Information Systems, Finance & Accounting, Student Information Systems, Professional Development & Training, Marketing, Transportation, and more. ALA pays Charter One an Administrative Service Fee (ASF) for services provided. 

ALA and Charter One are accountable to the State of Arizona, the Arizona Department of Education, and the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools for the performance and operations of all ALA schools.

How does ALA budget for Administrative Services?

Our contract with Charter One is performance-based. The total fee is contingent on ALA meeting its financial covenants, academic goals, and operational objectives as determined by the ALA Board of Directors. Charter One is the only service provider in the country willing to be paid based on the financial, academic, and operational performance of ALA. This arrangement is truly a win-win for both entities. It's yet another way we are transforming education, and our data is proving it is the right approach. 

The total fee due to Charter One is variable and capped, and ranges from 0-10%. Independent research shows that this range is below the national average of similar service providers.

What does the Administrative Service Fee (ASF) provide to ALA?

American Leadership Academy outsources certain administrative services to Charter One. Charter One functions similar to a traditional school district office and charges ALA a fee for services rendered. This arrangement allows ALA to leverage economies of scale. The fee to Charter One is contingent on ALA achieving its goals in the areas of finance, academics, and operations, as determined by the ALA Board of Directors. This means that Charter One is incentivized to help ALA succeed in all areas; otherwise Charter One receives less money. It's a win-win arrangement, and our results are proving its the right approach. 
 

How does the ASF impact ALA budgets?

The total fee due to Charter One is variable and capped, and ranges from 0-10%. Independent research shows that this range is below the national average of similar service providers.

For the 2018-2019 school year, ALA budgeted 9% for ASF. The total fee paid in the 2017-2018 school year was 5.7% of our budget.

By contracting with Charter One, American Leadership Academy schools are able to realize a significant savings, which allows us to focus on our core Mission of providing the best educational experience to as many students as possible in a moral and wholesome environment. 

How are charter schools funded?

American Leadership Academy, like all charter schools, has one primary source of funding, and two secondary sources. 

  1. ALA receives two types of state funding: Equalization and Charter Additional Assistance (CAA). This funding is based on student count and grades served, and is intended to provide for basic instruction and standard operations. CAA is used to help pay for supplies and capital projects.
  2. ALA also receives funding from the federal government. These funds are specifically earmarked for programs such as the National School Lunch Program, I.D.E.A., and Title I, among others.
  3. The last source of ALA's funding comes in the form of student fees, tax credits and donations. Individuals and families may choose to make tax-deductible donations to ALA as a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization, or to participate in Arizona's education tax credit program.

A major difference between charter schools and district schools is the fact that school districts have the power to tax. This taxing power allows district schools to be paid from local tax revenues. Approximately 75% of district school revenue comes from local taxes, such as property taxes. When school districts exceed their budgets, the state of Arizona provides extra funding via additional taxpayer dollars. 

Charter schools, including ALA, do not receive any money from local taxes, bonds, or levies, and must operate within their budgets with no state-funded safety net.

Does ALA receive less public funding than district schools?

Yes. When all tax dollars from state, federal, and local sources are added together, district schools receive on average over $1,500 more in per student funding than American Leadership Academy. This means ALA receives approximately $15,000,000 less per year than a similarly-sized school district. District schools also have access to millions of tax dollars via the Arizona School Facilities Board (SFB) which are not available to Charter schools. 

What is the average teacher salary at ALA?

For the 2018-2019 school year, the average teacher salary was $41,641 which constituted an average increase of 13% from the previous year's average salary. 

In January 2019, all ALA teachers received a $1,000 increase to their base salary, bringing the average teacher salary to $42,641. ALA has budgeted an additional $4,000 of performance pay available to teachers, bringing the total budgeted average salary to $46,641.

How does ALA teacher pay compare to other schools?

The 2018-2019 average budgeted salary for district school teachers is $53,933, based on an average tenure of 11 years. 

The 2018-2019 average budgeted salary for ALA school teachers is $46,641. ALA average teacher tenure is less than three years.

Several constraints on our budgets impact our compensation efforts:

  • ALA receives $1500 less per student than district schools. This equates to $36,000 - $65,000 less per classroom than district schools.
  • ALA pays for our own facilities and land without taxpayer assistance. We pay an average $1,300 per pupil for facilities.
  • Unlike district schools, ALA does not have access to state-backed loans, and therefore is not able to obtain the lowest interest rate possible to finance our facilities. Based on historical averages, this costs ALA more than $3,000,000 per year in additional mortgage payments.
  • We also offer core subjects and extracurricular activities beyond the typical Charter model, including grades K-6 special programs (arts, sports, music, and technology), and grades 7-12 activities which include over 20 sports programs, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, fine arts (music, dance, theater, etc.), robotics, equestrian programs, and more.
     

Did American Leadership Academy meet the state expectations for teacher pay increases in 2018?

YES! In fact, teachers received an average 13% pay increase, far surpassing law makers' expectations of a 9% pay increase. Those included in the increase were general education teachers, ESS teachers (SPED & Gifted), as well as Specials/Elective teachers (K-12). ALA works diligently to provide increases and incentives to its employees and re-evaluates compensation on an annual basis. In addition, we continue to maintain a moral and wholesome environment which allows teachers to practice their craft with fewer distractions. 
 

How does ALA allocate its resources?

Since we receive $1500 less per student than neighboring district schools, we work hard to ensure that every dollar supports our mission to provide the best educational experience to as many students as possible in a moral and wholesome environment. For a detailed breakdown of expenditures, click here.
 

Does American Leadership Academy receive special taxpayer funding to build and operate new school facilities?

No. Like all Charter schools, ALA must cover the full cost to build, operate and maintain new facilities without taxpayer funding. Facilities costs include: purchasing land, engineering and design, construction, maintenance, financing, leasing, debt service, etc. 

In 2018-2019, ALA will pay approximately $1,300 per student for facility costs without the aid of additional funds from the Arizona School Facilities Board, property taxes, bonds, or other voter-approved levies; all of which are available to neighboring district schools. 

How does American Leadership Academy build schools without taxpayer funding?

Since ALA does not receive capital funding from taxpayers through voter-approved bonds, overrides, or the Arizona School Facilities Board, ALA relies on private investors to fund the costs and incur the risks associated with building and acquiring new schools. These private investors take on all of the risks of financing, leasing, building and equipping the new schools and are only paid if ALA has student enrollment. Without help from the private sector, ALA could not exist.

ALA has saved Arizona taxpayers millions of dollars by using private investors to fund new school buildings.

American Leadership Academy uses tax-exempt bonds and private financing to grow. By bundling facilities debt, we receive more competitive financing rates, which lowers our costs.

Are taxpayers liable for facilities if an ALA school closes or fails?

No. Since the state of Arizona does not own ALA facilities, there is no taxpayer liability if a school closes. Charter schools receive funding on a per pupil basis. This means all of the funding a Charter school receives follows the student. If a Charter school does not have students attending, it does not receive any funding for operations, including facilities.

On the other hand, if district schools do not have students attending, the taxpayer is still obligated to pay for the facilities. 

Why does ALA continue to grow?

At American Leadership Academy we work hard to achieve our mission to provide the best educational experience to as many students as possible in a moral and wholesome environment. Our growth stems from community demand and the fact that many of our campuses have wait-lists.
 

Does American Leadership Academy oppose its teachers getting involved with political education movements?

Certainly not. At American Leadership Academy, we strive to foster an environment that is apolitical. We are dedicated to assisting families teach children our RAISE values and to solve problems using critical thinking skills. We teach civic responsibility and encourage community participation off campus, but school campuses are not political venues, which would distract from our primary mission of providing the best educational experience possible. We advocate for policies that benefit education in general, and charter schools specifically, but these activities do not take place on school campuses.  

Is American Leadership Academy a community school?

Yes. American Leadership Academy is proud to serve all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, socioeconomic status or disability. Our student population is diverse. Each unique student adds to the strength of our student body. Over 25% of our students come from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and nearly 20% qualify for the National Free and Reduced Lunch Program. We have a robust Exceptional Student Services department, and over 10% of our student body benefits from our outstanding Exceptional Student Services faculty and staff dedicated to our students with disabilities. Our school demographics closely match the demographics of the communities we serve.

We also provide a wide range of Advanced Placement courses and exams, and over 5% of our student body participate in Gifted programs. Additionally, we host a variety of foreign exchange students each year, and are expanding options for our students to broaden their educational experience through foreign study opportunities.

What services does American Leadership Academy provide to students with special needs?

At ALA, over 10% of our student body receives Exceptional Student Services (ESS). As a public school, ALA provides a full range of ESS services and placement options. We have well-developed procedures for locating, identifying and evaluating students who have ESS needs. Additionally, we provide a range of interventions to benefit students who need additional support to succeed in the general education curriculum. ALA also supports students through Section 504 plans, when appropriate. 
We ensure all students have access to the support and services which will help them prepare for college and careers beyond high school. We provide support ranging from push-in services in the general education classroom, pull-out services in the resources environment, as well as programs designed to support students who are learning an alternate curriculum or need more intensive behavioral interventions. Our goal is to provide students access to the general education classroom, as appropriate, for each student’s needs as determined by each student’s Individualized Education Plan team.  

Does American Leadership Academy need to fundraise?

In order to accomplish American Leadership Academy's mission of providing the best educational experience to as many students as possible, extensive resources are required. The educational needs of our students and teachers exceed the public funding levels provided by the state. Since we receive $1500 less per student than district schools in state funding, we raise additional funds through community fundraising efforts. 

With nearly 10,000 students in our classrooms, this results in approximately $15,000,000 less each year than our same-sized district school counterparts receive.
 
Additionally, because we believe a well-rounded education is the best way to prepare our students for their futures, ALA provides a full range of extracurricular activities, including fine arts, drama, choir, chorus, band, science clubs, and a wide range of sports, which puts a further strain on limited resources. Families and the community have been and continue to be very generous in their giving because they recognize the terrific education and value ALA schools provide to every student.

Besides great academics, what does American Leadership Academy offer students?

American Leadership Academy provides a wide range of extracurricular activities for students, including Fine Arts (band, orchestra, chorus, drama, ballroom dance, modern dance, etc.), athletics (football, volleyball, swimming, cross country, basketball, wrestling, baseball, softball, track & field, etc.), and a variety of clubs and after school activities.  Despite limited funding for these activities, ALA schools have won over 50 state championships in the last five years, our dance teams have won multiple national championships, our academic and robotics teams have been nationally recognized, and our theater and drama productions have been nationally adjudicated.