Charter Schools And How They Differ From Public Schools

Many people do not understand the concept of a charter school and often confuse it with a public school. Even though technically charter schools are public schools, there are some distinct differences between the two.

Charter School Statistics

The first charter school ever established in the United States was in 1992 in St. Paul, Minnesota. As of the 2011-2012 school year, charter legislation has passed in 42 states along with the District of Columbia. The only states that have not passed this legislation are:

  • Alabama
  • Kentucky
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia

From 1999 to 2012, the percentage of public schools that were charter schools increased from 1.7 to 5.8 percent. The total number of public charter schools went from 1,500 to 5,700 and have increased in enrollment as well. In 2012 the number of students enrolled in charter schools was 2.1 million. 

Differences Between Public Schools and Charter Schools

One of the main differences between the two types of schools is that charter schools are chosen for the child by their parents. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as a child centered charter school, putting the needs of the child first. In the public school system, students are usually required to attend the school in their particular neighborhood. When it comes to charter schools, there is much more freedom to choose. But like public schools, students do not have to pay tuition.

Another major difference is that charter schools are created by parents, teachers, and education activists instead of the city's school district. This is why they are considered independent public schools. These schools must abide by guidelines and meet goals put into place by the charter when the school was created. Those who create the charter put together a mission for the school and establish how students are assessed in their learning.

Charter school rules vary from state to state, including who is able to authorize the charter. In some states, the charter must be authorized by their State Board of Education while in other states, the local school district is able to authorize the charter. 

Funding for Charter Schools 

Like public schools, charter schools are funded by the local district and state. The amount of funding depends on the number of students enrolled. Since they act as nonprofit organizations, they can also be funded through charity and other private sources. Many times, they are also eligible for grants. If the school fails to meet their goals, they could potentially lose their funding and be forced to close.