A charter school is a free public school that has the ability to operate through a contract with an approved authorizer such as a college or university, a city mayor’s office, an approved nonprofit, or a local school district or state board.

As public schools, charter schools are open to all children, do not require entrance exams, cannot charge tuition, and must participate in state and federal testing and programs.


How are charter schools different from public schools?

Charter schools are…

  • Exempt from certain state or local rules and regulations – this varies by state and authorizer
  • Governed by a group or organization established to oversee the school, instead of by the state education board
  • Accountable to a charter contract, which is a performance contract, and are obligated to meet standards in the charter in order to receive funding and maintain autonomy


Why choose a charter school?

  • Charter schools have more flexibility than public schools in designing their educational model and selecting their curricula. This type of flexibility can take several forms:
  • Teachers can adjust the curriculum and class materials to fit students’ needs
  • Some schools create a theme or an overall focus for their curricula, such as STEM education, performing arts, college prep, blended learning and/or language immersion
  • Some schools allow instruction to take several forms, such as traveling outdoors or taking online classes


How do students enroll in a charter school?

Charter schools are public schools and cannot discriminate.  Any student that lives within the state, has proof of residency and/or complies with state laws for enrollment, can enroll in the charter school.  Students must complete an enrollment form and if there is available space at the school, the student will be enrolled.  If the school has limited seats and more students interested than available seats, then a lottery will be conducted to accommodate the number of open seats available.


How do charter schools work?

A group of interested people form as a charter school applicant.  This group could include parents, community leaders, teachers, school districts, or municipalities—submit a charter application, which follows a process dictated by the authorizer.

If the application is approved, the group will enter into a contract with the authorizer to open and operate a charter school.  This performance contract outlines the school’s mission, assessment methods, and performance goals as they relate to the state and federal standards.

This charter is reviewed by authorizers, which, depending on state laws, can be any of the following: state board of education, approved education agencies, higher-educational institutions, local school districts, and/or mayor’s offices. Authorizers are held accountable for the performance of the charter school, and the charter must be renewed every few years.


How are charter schools funded?

Charter schools receive state funding allocated to the charter contract. As the charter contract is approved, funding is allotted on a per pupil basis. Charter schools are primarily publicly funded by state and federal funding, but can still receive private funding as well.  Many charter schools operate on 60-70% of that which traditional public schools district schools operate.


Do teachers need to be certified at charter schools?

Many states do, but not all states. Most states require certification for all teachers, but certain states will define certification differently. For example, Massachusetts requires their teachers to achieve Highly Qualified Teachers status with a bachelor’s degree that demonstrates a mastery of the subject matter they’re teaching.

This also varies by charter school.  When interviewing charter schools, this is a questions that parents and stakeholders can ask to be aware of the view point from different schools.