Charter schools are free public schools that are open to all students. Students are admitted through a random lottery. Charter schools provide parents with a tuition-free alternative for educating their child. The charter school movement is large and growing in almost every state in the United States. Over two million students are enrolled in more than 6,000 charter schools across the country.
What makes a charter school different from the zoned public school?
Charter schools are given more autonomy than zoned public schools in exchange for greater accountability – if a charter school doesn’t perform it can be shut down. Some of the examples of the autonomy charter schools have:
Charter schools can choose their own curriculum
They can control their own budget
They are not automatically subject to the teachers’ union contract (which means they can base hiring decisions on performance).
Charter schools are granted a charter after a rigorous review process. There are two organizations in New York State that are allowed to provide charters – these are called charter authorizers. Every five years, the charter authorizer for a given school determines whether to renew the charter agreement.
Charter schools are required to administer the same state tests as traditional zoned schools but are held to much higher standards of performance on these tests.
Charter schools do receive a per-pupil allocation from the state to help fund their operations, but this is generally 75% of the allocation provided to a traditional public school.
What are the benefits?
Enables educators to be more creative and innovative in their instructional approach
Provides options for parents, particularly in communities that lack enough high-quality educational options
Allows parents to choose a school based on the kind of approach that would work best for their child