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Changing Education Paradigms
What is a Charter School?
In the United States, charter schools are primary or secondary schools that receive public money (and like other schools, may also receive private donations). They are subject to some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools, but generally have more flexibility than traditional public schools. Charter schools are expected to produce certain results, set forth in each school's charter. Charter schools are attended by choice.
In exchange for flexibility, charter schools receive less funding than public schools in the same area - typically, they receive only 'head' funds (a certain amount per student) and do not receive any facilities funding which typically pays for a public school's maintenance and janitorial needs. Although charter schools provide an alternative to other public schools, they are part of the public education system and are not allowed to charge tuition. Where enrollment in a charter school is oversubscribed, admission is frequently allocated by lottery-based admissions systems. However, the lottery is open to all students.
In a 2008 survey of United States charter schools, 59% of the schools reported that they had a waiting list, averaging 198 students. Some charter schools provide a curriculum that specializes in a certain field—e.g., arts, mathematics, or vocational training. Others attempt to provide a better and more cost efficient general education than nearby non-charter public schools. Charter school students take state-mandated exams.
Some charter schools are founded by teachers, parents, or activists who feel restricted by traditional public schools. State-authorized charters (schools not chartered by local school districts) are often established by non-profit groups, universities, and some government entities. Additionally, school districts sometimes permit corporations to manage chains of charter schools. The schools themselves are non-profit entities. Corporate management does not affect the status of a school.
How Do I start a Charter School?
During the 2010-11 school year, the charter school sector added more than 500 new schools and served in excess of 2 million public school students in the United States. More than 20 years after the first charter school opened in Saint Paul, Minnesota, a growing number of founding boards, educational entrepreneurs, and others continue to apply for charters to form new schools. This section of the Resource Center website is dedicated to fulfilling our mission to provide technical assistance and on-demand resources in support of successful planning of high-quality charter schools. Here, you can find dozens of state-specific websites and toolkits from Charter Support Organizations and state departments of education.