Parenting on Purpose: Charter Schools & Questions

I often get questions regarding charter schools about how they work and their benefits.  I want to start a seven-part series that may help to answer some commonly asked questions.  Are they for-profit or not?  How do they get their funding?  Are they a better education for kids?  Our first question is:  What Are Charter Schools?  How Do They Work?

Charter schools get their funds from the public in the form of taxes to a local school district.  They are tuition-free, and thus students can attend them without cost.  In many cases, parents have to provide transportation to and from the school.  It started initially in Minnesota as a way to innovate around a school concept.  They are currently in 44 states, including my state of Colorado.

Charter schools agree with the local schools’ district where they reside and receive a portion of the funding given to the local school district.  The local school district agrees upon the amount of funding received by the charter school.  The laws surrounding charter schools vary with the rules in the state in which they reside.  They apply to the local school district to state a charter school that focuses on a particular need within the school district that they feel isn’t being met—for example, test scores for disadvantaged students.  Along with state regulation, the school district then authorizes the charter to exist in their district in exchange for fewer regulations.  The authorizer of the alliance can be a school district, a university, or a state agency.  They also have the power to shut the charter school down.

Some state regulations do not apply to charter schools; they appear in charter’s agreement with the authorizer, i.e., district, state, etc.  Charter schools can draw students from any area, so families choose to attend a particular charter.  If the demand to participate in the charter is greater than the school’s space, they generally use a lottery system, such as schools in Chicago and other large cities.

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, nationwide charter educates about 6 percent of the nation’s public-school students; however, they host 30 percent in larger cities.  They are a source of great debate and controversy among all interested parties involved in public school education.  Because they use state money in most cases, charter schools compete for dollars. In part two, I will speak about who operates charter schools.

Here is a link to an article of frequently asked questions regarding charter schools: Colorado Charter Schools Frequently Asked Questions | CDE (

I have other articles regarding charters schools at Charter Schools: Pro or Con? – Dr. Rich Patterson (

Yours for better parenting,