Home » Policies » Governance


Your program’s governance structure should be described in your policies. The wide range of possible structures varies between states, but might include, and is certainly not limited to, the following:

  • State virtual school within the state’s department of education
  • State virtual school created as an independent entity
  • Statewide charter school managed independently
  • Statewide charter school managed by a charter school or virtual school management company
  • Public school district program serving students from one or more high schools within the district
  • Public school program serving students from only that school
  • Public or private school serving students from multiple districts, states or countries
  • Consortium of public or private schools
  • Independent private school

In all cases, there will be a decision-making board that may be a school board, a statewide task force or board created specifically for the program. Some programs have both a decision-making board (such as a board of directors) and an advisory board. This two-level structure can be a way to involve more people and stakeholder groups without creating an excessively burdensome decision-making process.

Policies can define the composition of the board(s), the election process and length of term and the officers. A policy defining the budgetary and decision-making authority of the board(s) and program administrators within the larger structure of the organization, if applicable, is also important.

As you create your program, be sure to investigate your state’s laws regarding online learning programs. In some cases, special laws for online learning programs might limit the structures you have to choose from or provide different funding models for online learning programs that impact your initial assumptions. Some states require that online learning programs receive state approval prior to operation. If you are a new charter school, the charter school application may need to include special sections, and if you’re a charter school adding an online learning program, your original application and charter may need revision. Check with your state’s department of education for more information.

Once your governance structure is established, you’ll also need policies that define how policies are adopted. Most schools require a minimum of two readings at board meetings with a chance for stakeholder comment, followed by a majority vote of adoption by the entire board. There are many variations on that theme, and you may want to customize a process that maximizes efficiency and thoroughness in your particular situation.

For more information on the function of school boards, see the website of the National School Boards Association.