What Is a Charter School?

A charter school is public and operates under a charter. It is independently run and is allowed more flexibility than other public and private schools but has to be more accountable for its performance.

What Is a Charter?
The charter to be followed is a contract, which is between the school and the governing body. This could be, for example, a university, a government agency or a non-profit organization. The charter outlines the mission of the school and its education program, the performance goals and how these are to be assessed.

A charter school is given autonomy to follow its own educational objectives with the authority to make decisions on important aspects of the school curriculum as well as the budget and personnel.

Why Choose a Charter School?
Charter schools are accountable for their performance in return for the flexibility they are given. This performance includes the academic results achieved by their pupils, so parents can be rest assured that their chosen school strives to get the best from their children in order to achieve the highest grades.

Another appeal is that charter schools aren’t usually restricted by zoning regulations so parents can choose to send their children there rather than have a school imposed on them by the local school district. Because charter schools are public, there are no tuition fees to pay. The downside is that when the number of applicants exceeds the available spaces, the allocations are made on a lottery basis.

How Are Charter Schools Funded?
As charter schools don’t fall under a school district due to this lack of zoning, they are funded differently. Most of them receive public dollars but are ultimately responsible for their own funding.

Before a charter school is opened, adequate funds have to be secured to cover startup costs, including the cost of the facilities. Grants are provided through federal legislation to help with this. When open, public funds are received on a per pupil basis. Some states grant them additional funds while others provide funds that are less than the funds provided to the traditional schools. Aside from this, charter schools rely on philanthropic donations.

The Unique Aspect of Charter Schools
Whereas traditional schools follow the same curriculum, have the same hours and follow similar rules, charter schools are all different. Charter schools are started by teachers, community leaders, school districts, parents, municipalities or social entrepreneurs. Depending on the vision and goals of the body who puts forward the proposal to start a charter school depends on the way the school is likely to move forward in its practices.

For example, teachers leading a school have their own ideas about the best ways to foster learning in children and are given the freedom to do this in a charter school. Some schools have longer hours of schooling than traditional schools, some teach the curriculum in more than one language, some stipulate that school uniform must be worn.

What every charter school has in common though is its promise to strive for excellence both in the academic achievements of its pupils and the satisfaction of the parents, who are encouraged to be active in their children’s education.