Dr. Rich Patterson

Charter Schools: Public or Private–Part 5

The short answer here is that it depends.  It depends on your definition of public or private.  Charter schools do not have an elected school board like a public school district has.  Nor do they have to accept all students who wish to enroll, like public schools.  Do public funds only fund them?  Generally not.  So in these areas, they are not the same as public schools.  Some states support private schools with state money through vouchers, tax credits, and education savings accounts to make it more complicated. In contrast, public schools receive state funding and are more highly regulated.  The answer depends on the state and the charter agreement.

If you ask this question in many states, people will say they are Public Schools.  In Colorado, for example, charter schools are considered public schools even though they enjoy some of the benefits outlined above.  Some school districts have magnet schools with special admissions requirements that allow them to pick and choose students. In most states, charter schools have to adhere to the exact testing requirements that public schools have, so in that sense, charter schools are public schools.

A few Colorado facts concerning charter schools:

  • Charter schools are public schools
  • Charter schools do not charge tuition
  • Charter schools use non-discriminatory enrollment practices
  • Charter school students must take state assessments

Suppose you are considering enrollment for your child in a charter school, or public school for that matter.  Read about the school’s governance structure.  If it is a part of the school district, you will likely be familiar with much governance and funding structure.  If it is a charter school, ask for details about funding, focus, student achievement, and the like.  In most cases, you should be able to look at their test scores in the same source as public schools, such as your state’s department of education website.

You will find part six of the seven-part series may be found here, Charter Schools: Pro or Con? – Dr. Rich Patterson (

ThoughtCo has a post on the Pros and Cons of Charter Schools here; what are the Pros and Cons of Charter Schools? (

Source:  Prothero, Arianna. (2018) Charter Schools: 7 Common Questions, Answered.  Education Week, August 9, 2018.

Yours for Better Parenting,