What is a Charter School?

Learn about charter schools and their difference from public schools to find out if they the right fit for your family.

Charter schools are defined as independent public schools which implement more improvements in their curriculum and considered liable for the success of students. This type of school established an atmosphere where there is more involvement of parents or guardians. Mentors are given more freedom to innovate and students are endowed with the organization required in learning. The charter school is a public entity that gets public funds to sustain its operations. What sets these schools apart is autonomy from state policies in public education. The institution is allowed to hire or terminate teachers and employees; formulate their own curriculum; and promote certain values. This school is expected to set up a charter or agreement with the local school district chosen by the state. Each state has unique educational policies so the charter varies.

Charter Schools are Public Schools

These public charter schools are meant to build up the national public school system. Although these function separately from the district, the school is considered non-sectarian or not confined to a particular religious sect and does not practice discrimination. Just like the traditional schools, students are free to enroll and are not charged any tuition fees. Funds come from federal, state and local coffers. All charter public schools are responsible to standards of excellence prescribed by the federal and state governments.

What innovations can charter institutions introduce?

These schools are allowed to implement their own schedules such as longer school days. Classes can be offered in the evenings, on weekends and during summer vacation. It can modify the curriculum according to the needs of the students. Even the teachers are given the prerogative to provide inputs on how the syllabus can be revised. The charter school can develop a unique ethos and build upon the principal academic subjects through the adoption of a theme. Some of these schools concentrate on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education; project-based learning; civic and classical education; college preparation; and, the performing arts. Charter schools are given the authority to develop new-generation learning prototypes. It can be a combination of the traditional classroom setting and the new distance learning technique.

Contentious Issues Involving Charter Schools

The charter concept espouses the move to grant individual schools more liberty so that education will become more effective. These public institutes are meant to serve the interests of talented students, poor families and religious communities.

Major benefits of charter schools include more novelty since new teaching methods are discovered and tried until the most effective way in reaching out to students is established. There is greater competence because the multitude of government policies and meddling of local officials is avoided. The principle of accountability is strengthened. A charter school that fails to motivate students to succeed may be forced to shut down. It needs to attract more students so the school has to compete with other institutions. The school also needs to obtain support from the private sector for support of its programs.

On the other hand, there are certain downsides such as higher rate of inequality due to admission prerequisites, limited information and transportation costs that can prevent underprivileged students from being accepted in a charter school. Most of these schools also have inferior facilities and fewer resources as well as a dearth of standards like teacher certification.