1. What is a charter school?

Charter schools are public schools, but it operates under a charter or a contract with an authorizer. Students and their families have the option of attending, as opposed to be assigned to the local school in the district. The authorizer might be the state in which the school is located or the local board of education. Charter schools are granted flexibility from in some cases in exchange for a higher degree of accountability and ensuring that students maintain certain levels of performance.

2. Are charter schools public schools?

Yes, a charter school is a public school, as opposed to a private school. Charter schools receive public funding and are not allowed to charge tuition. They must also offer fair and open enrollment, be secular, and must serve all student populations, including students with disabilities and or those whose first language is not English. Charter schools have some of the freedoms private schools have, but they are not private and cannot act as such.

3. What is the difference between a charter school and a traditional public school?

Charter schools are different from traditional public schools in two primary ways: they are autonomous and they offer flexibility. They are governed by an autonomous non-profit board of directors, as opposed to the local board of education. They are also free from certain state and local rules and regulations, provided they meet certain obligations regarding accountability. This means they have the freedom to implement innovative or unique programs, and are better able to provide educational opportunities to parents and students.

4. What is the difference between a charter school and a magnet or theme school?

Magnet schools, sometimes called theme schools, are typically within a local school district that offers a particular instructional program. They might have admissions criteria that include test scores, teacher recommendations, or certain grades. On the other hand, charter schools operate independently from the local district and cannot have admissions criteria. Charter schools cannot require students to pass a test or have a certain GPA to gain admittance.

5. What is the difference between a charter school and a private school?

Charter schools are absolutely public schools. They are publicly funded, unable to charge tuition, and not allowed to have admissions criteria. Additionally, they are subject to many of the same state and all federal regulations as traditional public schools. This means students attending a charter school must participate in the same statewide assessments and accountability measures as traditional public school students. This is not always the case for private schools and the government has less authority over private schools.

6. What is a start-up charter school?

A start-up charter school is a charter school that was not a public school prior to becoming a charter school. It was started from scratch, as opposed to being turned or transitioned into a charter school after serving the community as a public school. In some cases, charter schools are created because the community believes a public school has failed. But in the case of a start-up, no school existed prior to the charter school.

7. A start-up charter school is a charter school that did not exist prior to becoming a charter school.

8. What is a conversion charter school?

Conversion charter schools are schools that previously existed in another form – a traditional public school. If a traditional public school is not performing as the community desires or if the community believes a charter school would be more beneficial, it can enter into a charter to gain additional flexibility in exchange for greater accountability. In many cases, the students and faculty remain the same after the transition, but are required to adhere to the new rules and requirements under the charter.

9. What is a state-chartered special school?

A state-chartered special school is a school that received its approval from the State Board of Education to become a charter school after having been denied by a local school district. This means that if a community requests permission to become a charter school and is at first denied, the community has other options and can continue to pursue the possibility of transitioning to a charter school.

10. What is a charter system?

Charter systems are local school districts that operate under the terms of a charter that exists between that state’s Board of Education and the local school district. Like an individual charter school, the charter system receives flexibility from certain state rules and regulations in exchange for greater accountability. Additionally, an emphasis is placed on school-based leadership and decision-making. The state is still involved in the school, but the rules and regulations are different and the system has greater flexibility.