What is a Charter School ?

1) What is a Charter School ?

A charter school is a nonsectarian public school of choice that operates with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The “charter” establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. The length of time for which charters are granted varies, but most are granted for 3-5 years. At the end of the term, the entity granting the charter may renew the school’s contract. Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor-usually a state or local school board-to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. The basic concept of charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for this accountability. They are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: the sponsor that grants them, the parents who choose them and the public that funds them.

2) How did charter school movement start ?
The charter school movement has roots in a number of other reform ideas, from alternative schools, to site-based management, magnet schools, public school choice, privatization, and community-parental empowerment. The term “charter” may have originated in the 1970s when New England educator Ray Budde suggested that small groups of teachers be given contracts or “charters” by their local school boards to explore new approaches. Albert Shanker, former president of the AFT, then publicized the idea, suggesting that local boards could charter an entire school with union and teacher approval. In the late 1980s Philadelphia started a number of schools-within-schools and called them “charters.” Some of them were schools of choice. The idea was further refined in Minnesota where charter schools were developed according to three basic values: opportunity, choice, and responsibility for results. In 1991 Minnesota passed the first charter school law, with California following suit in 1992. By 1995, 19 states had signed laws allowing for the creation of charter schools, and by 2002 that number increased to 38 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Charter schools are one of the fastest growing innovations in education policy, enjoying broad bipartisan support from governors, state legislators, and past and present secretaries of education. In his 1997 State of the Union Address, former President Clinton called for the creation of 3,000 charter schools by the year 2002. In 2002, President Bush called for $200 million to support charter schools. His proposed budget called for another $100 million for a new Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities Program. Since 1994, the U.S. Department of Education has provided grants to support states’ charter school efforts, starting with $6 million in fiscal year 1995, to $300 million proposed for 2003.

3) What are the benefits of Charter School?
The intention of most charter school legislation is to:

  • Increase opportunities for learning and access to quality education for all students
  • Create choice for parents and students within the public school system
  • Provide a system of accountability for results in public education
  • Encourage innovative teaching practices
  • Create new professional opportunities for teachers
  • Encourage community and parent involvement in public education
  • Leverage improved public education broadly

People establish charter schools for a variety of reasons. The founders generally fall into three groups: grassroots organizations of parents, teachers and community members; entrepreneurs; or existing schools converting to charter status. According to the first-year report of the National Study of Charter Schools, the three reasons most often cited to create a charter school are to:

  • Realize an educational vision
  • Gain autonomy
  • Serve a special population

Parents and teachers choose charter schools primarily for educational reasons–high academic standards, small class size, innovative approaches, or educational philosophies in line with their own. Some also have chosen charter schools for their small size and associated safety (charter schools serve an average of 250 students).

4) Who can attend a charter school?
Charter schools are public schools of choice. Any student who lives in the charter school’s school district and who submits a timely application may attend a charter school. If the number of applications exceeds the school’s capacity, applicants will be selected through a lottery process. A charter school may not have admission criteria.

5) How is a Charter School funded?
Charter Schools are funded by State and sponsoring district.

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