WHAT IS A CHARTER SCHOOL?
A charter school is a public school, funded with public money and operated by parents, educators or community members. Charter schools must be approved by their local school district. The district and charter school negotiates a contract or “charter” based upon the proposal. Charter schools are non-sectarian, non-religious and do not discriminate in their admission policies.
WHAT MAKES A CHARTER SCHOOL UNIQUE?
Each charter school is different because of the people governing the school, the staff, the families and the students. Even schools using the same curriculum can be quite different from one another.
WHO CAN ENROLL IN A CHARTER SCHOOL?
Anyone can. Each charter school must specify in its proposal how it will admit students. Most have adopted either a lottery or a waiting list policy. Charter schools may not use admissions tests. Charter schools are choice schools, which means parents and students choose which school they would like to attend and are limited only by space availability. Parents should also remember that many charter schools do not provide transportation; parents are responsible for getting their child to school.
TO WHOM IS A CHARTER SCHOOL RESPONSIBLE?
The board of directors at the charter school is responsible for all areas of operation. The charter school is directly responsible to the school district which granted it the contract or “charter.” Charter schools must also meet or exceed state academic standards.
Why do some charter schools have waiting lists?
Waiting lists occur primarily because charter schools are market driven. As a school of choice, parents decide if they want their children to attend the charter school. A successful school will have greater demand. Charter schools also must determine their ideal size, this may cause a charter school to reach their ideal size and stop growing.
WHAT TYPES OF EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHIES DO CHARTER SCHOOLS HAVE?
Some charter schools use a wide variety of educational philosophies. Some operate with an “open” or “experimental” philosophy, stressing experiences rather than knowledge. Many charter schools use the Core Knowledge curriculums stressing rigorous academics in a disciplined environment. Combinations of these and other curriculums and philosophies are also implemented in charter schools across the state.
How are charter schools different than my neighborhood schools?
Charter schools offer a wide variety of curriculums and education philosophies. Charters often have at-will contracts for employees and hire non-union teachers. A board of directors is responsible for the school. The board hires administrators who are responsible for the school. Parents have a voice in the running of the school through directorships on the board. Parents are directly involved in their child’s educational decisions and are often very involved volunteering their time. Some charter schools mandate parents volunteering a specific number of hours.
HOW ARE CHARTER SCHOOLS LIKE MY NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS?
Charter schools, like neighborhood schools, are funded with taxpayer money (they just operate with less.) Charter schools may have an administrator who is responsible for day-to-day operations. Special Education is often similar to the neighborhood school.
Does a charter school need to accept my special education student?
Yes, the law requires charter schools to educate their Special Education students. Some charter schools may choose to purchase Special Education services from their local school district, whereas others have hired their own staff to deliver these services.
DO CHARTER SCHOOLS PICK THE BRIGHTEST STUDENTS?
Charter schools cannot give admissions tests. They use either a lottery or waiting list policy or a combination thereof. Several charter schools have been established to serve at-risk students.
HOW DID CHARTER SCHOOLS DEVELOP?
Policy makers and educators looking for innovative methods to reform education adopted an idea printed by Albert Shanker at an American Federation of Teachers conference in 1988. The first state to implement a Charter School Act was Minnesota in 1991.