What is a Charter School?

For those looking into alternative options of education for their children, you might be wondering what is a charter school? Charter schools are fairly recent type of schooling and education used as an alternative to public schools. In this article we are going to try to answer the what is a charter school question and highlight some of the pros and cons of charter schools.

What is a charter school?
A charter school in the United States can be either a primary or secondary school that receives its funding from both public and private resources. Because there are many private donations required to keep a charter school funded, they are not subject to the same conditions and regulations put forth on public schools. The fact that they are also publicly funded using state education dollars to help operate, charter schools cannot charge a tuition. However, charter schools are often more flexible and provide alternative methods for some aspects of education including transportation as well as education and teaching methods.

When trying to find out what is a charter school, you might also learn that a charter school can be founded by parents, community members or by the school district if they see a need for such an institution within the area. One requirement made, because of the public funding, is that the charter school administration must set forth a curriculum including goals and achievement levels to be monitored over by the school board. However, these do not have to be the same goals and requirements mandated by the school district for public schools. The charter is then reviewed every couple of years and the school board determines whether or not it is effective in teaching its students.

For parents wondering what is a charter school, you might also be wondering what are the advantages of sending your children to a charter school. Many parents decide to enroll their children in a charter school based on the many unique opportunities and advantages offered at charter schools that may not be available at public schools.

Some charter school benefits may include:

  • Smaller class sizes and more individualized attention
  • Giving parents a greater say in their child’s education
  • Schools are required to be accountable for their performance
  • Teachers are allowed to try innovative teaching methods
  • More opportunities are given to teachers
  • Teachers choose to work there, which may mean they are more likely to be committed to the school’s educational mission.

Charter schools vary drastically from state-to-state when it comes to admission, teaching methods and overall operation. Some charter schools place strict restrictions on the children that are admitted to the school. Generally, waiting lists or lottery-style methods will be used to help determine how many and which children are admitted to the charter school. There is also a cap placed on charter schools meaning that there can only be so many per state. Many charter schools also place limits on the number of students they will admit. However, public funding often relies on the number of students each charter school has attending.

If a charter school does not have enough students to fill all the classrooms, the school will experience a reduction in funding. This means they do not have as much money to operate and may lose their charter as a result. There are several different reasons a charter school could lose its ability to operate. One of these is financial reasons. If there is not enough public or private funding coming in, the school will be forced to close. Another reason the school charter might be revoked is because the standards set forth by the school board are not being met and the students are not receiving a quality education.

For parents who were wondering what is a charter school, it is still a good idea to visit and tour each charter school you may be considering for your child. Interview the administration as well as teachers to get a good feel of how the school operates. Sometimes charter schools are not for all students an it is a good idea to know how the school’s teaching method and administration work to determine if  a particular charter school would be a good option for your child.

Visit EeducationBug.org to get more information on public schools vs charter schools and more!

Sources: http://www.jdnews.com, http://www.uscharterschools.org