What is a Charter School?


*Disclaimer: Engaged Academics, LLC does not intend to sway or convey an opinion on this issue. We only want to inform and have people participate in civil dialogue about the topic.

Charter schools are independently run public schools granted greater flexibility and autonomy in its operation in return for higher performance and accountability. The term “charter” is a contract or agreement the school enters in which outlines its mission statement, program, students served, performance goals, and methods of assessments. Like public schools, charter schools are open to all children, do not require admission exams, cannot charge tuition, and must participate in state testing and federal accountability programs. So, a charter school can be thought of as a public school of choice.

Here in Tallahassee, we have the following charter schools.

A charter school can differ little or greatly from the public schools in an area. Below is a few of those differences.

Charter schools:

  • Must meet the education standard set by the state education board and follow certain state and local laws & regulations (A public school must meet these same standards, but not exempt in some areas as a charter.)

  • Can be exempt from certain state and local regulations and rules (It should be noted that these exemptions are difficult to find.)

  • Usually governed by an organization or group

  • Accountable based on its performance contract, the “charter” and obligated to meet certain standards to maintain its “charter”

  • Funded on a per-pupil basis with public funds

Traditional public schools:

  • Must meet the education standard set by the state education board, follow all state and local laws and regulations (A charter school must meet these same standards.)

  • Each public school district has a publicly-elected school board that’s held accountable for school performance

  • Relies on state, local, and federal money for funding. A large portion of this comes from local taxes.

Why choose a charter school? Well, charter schools have more flexibility than public schools which allows them to design their own criteria and be more flexible. Some charter schools may create a special curriculum that strongly focuses on STEM education, performing arts, college prep, or immersion in various languages. It can also allows flexibility to the student in the physical classroom and access to online courses.

But, are charter schools good for the community if they take away from public funds? That’s the “hot” question asked for years. Statistically, school performance, both charter and traditional, is all over the place. Certain areas show charter school performing slightly better than traditional public school. In others, not so much. But, here is a quick list of pros and cons to charter schools.

Pros

  • Flexibility of curriculum

  • Autonomy

  • Specialization and focus on specific academics or performance-based goals

  • Not one-size-fits-all education

  • Smaller class sizes

  • Smaller school

  • Family atmosphere

Cons

  • Public transportation may not be available (bus routes)

  • Fundraising often required

  • Less diverse

  • Less extracurricular opportunities

  • Contract isn’t stable

  • Often not accepting of students with various neurodivergence

  • Lottery entry

  • Some are for profit which raises controversy (The national statistic says that approximately 15% are for-profit and the remaining are non-profit. However, some of the non-profit charters operate under an educational management organization or company that is for profit.)

The million dollar question is whether charter schools are advantageous and beneficial to students in a community. I’d love to give you my opinion on this topic, but that’s not what educators do. We provide you with information and encourage you to do additional research and form your own opinions. However, we’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’d like to leave some feedback or have an opinion, click here and tell us what you think.

What Is a Charter School? (n.d.). Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://articles.niche.com/what-is-a-charter-school/

“Frequently Asked Questions.” Florida Department Of Education, www.fldoe.org/schools/school-choice/charter-schools/charter-school-faqs.stml.


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