What is a Public Charter School?

Schoolsk-12.com Staff

What is a Public Charter School  


A “public charter school” is usually defined as a “public school” that is nonsectarian, is chosen by parents for their children, and is open to all students on a space available basis.  A public charter school can be either a newly created school or a conversion of an already operating public school.  A public charter school operates with the approval of a local board of education in accordance with a written Charter Agreement executed between the local board of education and the administrative entity operating the public charter school.  Just as any other public school, a public charter school is subject to federal, state and local laws prohibiting discrimination and must comply with all applicable health and safety laws. 


Why Start a Public Charter School ?


The public charter school movement began more than 30 years ago.   Today, nearly 750,000 students from kindergarten through high school attend the more than 3,000 public charter schools in operation throughout the country. Most public charter schools are granted a charter contract that must be renewed every three to five years.   The school's charter is a performance contract outlining its mission, program, goals, targeted students, assessment methods and academic measurements. 


According to a National Study of Charter Schools report, the three reasons most often cited for creating a public charter school include the realizing of an educational vision; gaining autonomy; and serving a special student population.  Parents, teachers, community/business leaders, entrepreneurs and school districts have all taken an active role in starting public charter schools throughout the Country. In one instance, local businesses also joined in the initiative to make the public charter school a reality.   A local car dealership donated a van used to transport those students who would unable to travel back and forth to school otherwise. 


Public Charter School Benefits


Public charter schools offer students several important advantages.   They empower parents and students with more options for a quality public education so that students will meet their academic potential.   In addition to high academic standards, public charter schools also offer small class size and innovative teaching methods.  Although a public charter must meet state performance targets, it has increased flexibility with school approval regulations.   This flexibility is given to the school in return for more accountability. In many ways, public charter schools act as the “research & development” arm of public education.   Since public charter schools have greater flexibility, they tend to attract pioneering educators that can try out new educational approaches.   When proven effective, new teaching methods can then be implemented, tested and modified to meet the needs of students. 

One of the more exciting aspects of a public charter school is that students and their parents choose for a child to attend.   Students enroll in the school because it offers a specific mission in an environment that matches their needs.   This means that students who may have skipped classes at a traditional public school, typically have a low absenteeism rate when they attend a public charter school.  


Public Charter School Funding


Perhaps the greatest challenge facing public charter schools today is receiving adequate education funding.   As previously mentioned, a public charter school does not charge students tuition to attend.   Similar to traditional public schools, funding is provided by the state's adequacy funding allocation.   In essence, the state funding used to educate a student in the traditional public school is reallocated to the public charter school when a child enrolls.


Some critics argue that public charter school funding takes money away from the local school district.   In reality, most public charter school founders see their school as a way to save taxpayers money while also providing more education options for students.   Public charter schools are typically more entrepreneurial and can take advantage of philanthropic gifts.   This means that in the long run, a public charter school is extremely cost-efficient to run.   Additionally, public charter schools help solve the issue of overcrowding in fast-growing cities and towns where additional schools and teachers are needed.