What is a Charter School?

A charter school is a tuition free public school, and it may provide instruction in any of grades K-12. A charter school is usually created or organized by a group of teachers, parents or community leaders and it is usually sponsored by an existing local public school board or state board of education. A charter school is generally exempt from most laws governing school districts, except where specifically noted in the law. Public charter schools may not charge tuition and may not discriminate against any pupil on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, or disability. When enrollment is oversubscribed, students are entered in a lottery and drawn at random. The lottery is open to all students and charter schools are openly attended by choice.

The term "charter school" means a school that:

  • in accordance with a specific state statute authorizing the granting of charters to schools, is exempt from significant state or local rules that inhibit the flexible operation and management of public schools, but not from any rules relating to the other requirements of this paragraph;
  • is created by a developer as a public school, or is adapted by a developer from an existing public school, and is operated under public supervision and control;
  • operates in pursuit of a specific set of educational objectives determined by the school’s developer and agreed to by the authorized public chartering agency;
  • provides a program of elementary or secondary education, or both;
  • is nonsectarian in its programs, admissions policies, employment practices, and all other operations, and is not affiliated with a sectarian school or religious instruction;
  • does not charge tuition;
  • complies with the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;
  • is a school to which parents choose to send their children, and that admits students on the basis of a lottery, if more students apply for admission than can be accommodated;
  • agrees to comply with the same federal and state audit requirements as do other elementary and secondary schools in the state, unless such requirements are specifically waived for the purpose of this program;
  • meets all applicable federal, state, and local health and safety requirements;
  • operates in accordance with state law; and
  • has a written performance contract with the authorized public chartering agency in the state that includes a description of how student performance will be measured pursuant to state assessments that are required of other schools and pursuant to any other assessments agreeable to the authorizing agency.