What is a charter school?

A charter school is an independently run public school granted greater flexibility in its operations, in return for greater accountability for performance.

The “charter” establishing each school is a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, students served, performance goals, and methods of assessment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning that families choose them for their children.

    They operate with freedom from some of the regulations that are imposed upon district schools.

    Charter schools are accountable for academic results and for upholding the promises made in their charters.

    They must demonstrate performance in the areas of academic achievement, financial management, and organizational stability.

    If a charter school does not meet performance goals, it may be closed.

  • No. Charter schools can vary a great deal in their design and in their results.

  • Nationwide, students in charter schools have similar demographic characteristics to students in the local public schools.

    In some states, charter schools serve significantly higher percentages of minority or low-income students than the traditional public schools.

    Charter schools accept students by open enrollment and/or random, public lottery.

  • As public schools, charter schools are tuition-free. They are funded according to enrollment levels and receive public funds on a per pupil basis.

    In some states, such as Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, and New Jersey, they receive less than 100% of the funds allocated to their traditional counterparts for school operations. In other states, such as California, additional funds or loans are made available to them. In most states, charters do not receive capital funds to support facility expenses.

    Charter schools are entitled to federal categorical funding for which their students are eligible, such as Title I and Special Education monies. Federal legislation provides grants to help charters to manage start-up costs.