Parenting on Purpose: Charter Schools & Questions

I often get questions regarding charter schools about how they work and their benefits.  I would like 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.  They were started in Minnesota as a way to innovate around a school concept.  They are currently in 44 states, including my state of Colorado.

Charter schools have an agreement with the local schools’ district within which they reside and receive a portion of the funding given to the local school district.  The amount they receive is negotiated with the local school district.  The laws surrounding charter schools varies with the laws 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.  The school district, along with state regulation then authorizes the charter to exist in their district in exchange for fewer regulations.  The authorizer of the charter can be a school district, a university, or a state agency.  They also have the power to shut the charter school down.

The regulations that they get to avoid vary according to the state and are spelled out in the charter agreement that the charter has 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 attend the charter is greater than the space that the school has, they generally use a lottery system, such as schools in Chicago and other large cities.

Nationwide charter educates about 6 percent of the nation’s public-school students, however, in larger cities they host 30 percent, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.  They are a source of great debate and controversy among all interested parties involved in public school education.  Because they take resources from the public schools, they are seen as competitors to them.  In part two I will speak about who actually operates charter schools.

Yours for better parenting,