What Are Public Charter Schools?

Questions and Answers about Charter Schools and the
Proposed Constitutional Amendment

What are charter schools?

All charter schools are public schools. A charter is simply a contract that gives public schools flexibility in return for being held accountable for improved student achievement. By law, all charter schools:

  • Must accept all applicants as long as space is available (a public, random lottery is held to select students if more apply than available slots)
  • Must abide by all health, safety and civil rights laws
  • Must be audited each year by an independent auditor
  • Must be governed by an independent, local, nonprofit board
  • Must comply with all state standards, testing and accountability requirements
  • Must not charge tuition of any kind
  • May be closed if they do not meet specific performance goals and may be shut down at any time for cause

Charter schools provide one way to allow innovation and options within the public school framework.

Examples include:

  • Longer school days and/or Saturday school
  • Specially designed curriculum to meet student needs
  • Unique school cultures, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, performing arts, project-based learning, college prep, career academies, meeting the needs of autistic students, etc.
  • Digital learning, which combines high-quality online learning with traditional classroom instruction. This personalized approach allows students to move at their own pace, learn by their own learning style and access learning resources any time and any place.

Types of charter schools:

  • Conversion – A charter school that previously existed as a traditional public school.
  • Start-up– A charter school that did not exist prior to becoming a charter school.
    • LEA Start-ups are created by the local school system.
    • Independent Start-ups are created independently from the local school system.