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What is a Charter School?

Frequently Asked Questions About Charter Schools
 
What is a Charter School?
Charter schools provide parents a choice in the education of their children -- and it is a public choice. Public tax dollars are the primary funding sources for charter schools. Local, state, and federal dollars follow the child to a charter school. The schools have open enrollment with no discrimination, no religious associations, and no tuition.

 How do you enroll in a Charter School?
Parents must contact each individual school to see if they have openings. If they have more applicants than available slots, an open lottery must be instituted to fill the remaining spots.

 How much does it cost to attend a Charter School?
Charter Schools are tuition free. They are public schools and funding for the schools come from federal, state, and local taxes.

 Do charter schools take the state mandated ABCs tests?
Yes. All charter schools are required to take the state mandated tests.

 What's the difference between charter schools and other public schools?
Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning teachers and students choose them. They operate with freedom from many regulations that apply to traditional public schools. They generally offer teachers and students more authority to make decisions than most traditional public schools. Instead of being accountable for compliance with rules and regulations, they are accountable for academic results and for upholding their charter.


Who can start a Charter School?
Parents, community leaders, busine
sses, teachers, school districts, and municipalities can submit a charter school proposal to their state's charter authorizing entity.

Who attends charter schools? Whom do they serve?
Nationwide, students in charter schools have similar demographic characteristics to students in all public schools. In some states charter schools serve significantly higher percentages of minority or economically disadvantaged students than the traditional public schools.

How are they funded?
As public schools, charters are not allowed to charge tuition, and they are funded according to enrollment. In most states, charters do not receive capital funds for facilities. They 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 with start-up costs.

Do charter schools have admissions policies?
By law, charter schools must have a fair and open admissions process, conducting outreach and recruitment to all segments of the community they serve. When more students apply than can be accommodated, many charters use a lottery to randomly determine which students are accepted. Many charter schools also have waiting lists.

 

 What kind of federal support is there for charter schools?
Through the Public Charter Schools Program, the U.S. Department of Education offers grants to states, which then award subgrants to individual schools to assist them in planning, design, and initial implementation of new charter schools. Dissemination grants are also available to successful charter schools, with three or more years of experience, to support activities through which they help other groups open new or improve existing public schools. Charter schools are also eligible for funding under other federal programs.

 

 What do we know about how charter schools operate?

  • Most charter schools are newly created, while some are converted from existing schools.
  • Most charter schools are small schools (median enrollment is 242 students compared with 539 in traditional public schools).
  • They serve many different communities with a wide variety of curriculum and instructional practices.
  • They vary a lot from state to state and school to school.
  • Many charter schools have atypical grade configurations (K-3, K-8).
  • Most charter schools provide one or more non-instructional services, like health, social services, or extended day care.

 What are the requirements for acceptance into a charter school?
The only requirement to get into a charter school is the availability at the school in the requested grade.

 

Source : NC Office of Charter Schools www.uscharter.org

 

Charter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The "charter" establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school's mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. The length of time for which charters are granted varies, but most are granted for 3-5 years. At the end of the term, the entity granting the charter may renew the school's contract. Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor-- usually a state or local school board-- to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. The basic concept of charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for this accountability. They are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: the sponsor that grants them, the parents who choose them, and the public that funds them.
Source: www.uscharterschools.org

 

History of U.S. Charter Schools

 

The charter school movement has roots in a number of other reform ideas, from alternative schools, to site-based management, magnet schools, public school choice, privatization, and community-parental empowerment. The term "charter" may have originated in the 1970s when New England educator Ray Budde suggested that small groups of teachers be given contracts or "charters" by their local school boards to explore new approaches. Albert Shanker, former president of the AFT, then publicized the idea, suggesting that local boards could charter an entire school with union and teacher approval. In the late 1980s Philadelphia started a number of schools-within-schools and called them "charters." Some of them were schools of choice. The idea was further refined in Minnesota where charter schools were developed according to three basic values: opportunity, choice, and responsibility for results.

In 1991 Minnesota passed the first charter school law, with California following suit in 1992. By 1995, 19 states had signed laws allowing for the creation of charter schools, and by 2003 that number increased to 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Charter schools are one of the fastest growing innovations in education policy, enjoying broad bipartisan support from governors, state legislators, and past and present secretaries of education. In his 1997 State of the Union Address, former President Clinton called for the creation of 3,000 charter schools by the year 2002. In 2002, President Bush called for $200 million to support charter schools. His proposed budget called for another $100 million for a new Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities Program. Since 1994, the U.S. Department of Education has provided grants to support states' charter school efforts, starting with $6 million in fiscal year 1995.

 

Last Modified on November 7, 2012