There are three basic types of schools: private, public and charter. Public schools are free and available to the general public based on zoning. Private schools are expensive and independent, not governed by any regulatory state or local school board. Charter schools are public schools, but may not be restricted by the guidelines of its school district, including zoning.
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One outstanding characteristic of the charter school is, while connected with the public school system, it is not necessarily governed by the same red tape. In fact, one of the reasons charter schools have become so in-demand is because they have more freedom when it comes to innovation and deviation in education. In some states, these schools are subject to the same regulations as public schools. In others, charter schools can do things like hire teachers without state certification or create an unique curriculum. They may be accountable to local school boards, but may also be accountable to anyone funding their programs which can include parent organizations, local, state or federal bodies, or for-profit corporations.
On average, charter schools have no enrollment caps. They may focus on a specific topic, such as the arts. As part of the public school system, discrimination is not allowed. What charter schools do have in common with private schools is they can have a stringent enrollment program.
What makes charters incredibly appealing is they give parents options where they normally wouldn’t have any. Depending on the state, parents can choose charters outside their district, letting them send their children to the best school as opposed to the closest. While there are no enrollment caps, charter schools cannot allow over-crowding. This means they cannot accept everyone. Schools overwhelmed by applicants may use a lottery, or some other random method, for selecting students.
Data on charter schools in general shows that they tend to be high performing, better than public schools and on par with the best private schools. In fact, charter schools can be seen as hybrids. Free, like traditional public schools, with no discrimination of race, gender or disability, but, like private schools, offering an unique educational experience.
The charter school – still accountable to a government body that’s at least partially funding it – can be shut down if reviews show the school is doing poorly. Depending on the school and success rate, charters can have limited space. Students have to enroll and be accepted. Like private schools, charters operate independently but can be under the governance of a for-profit company, teachers, parents or local organization.
Charter schools are appealing with their determination to be the best driven by their own academic goals. Educators and administrators have their mission and promise a private school-like learning experience but without the often monetary or religious ties associated with those institutions. Some private schools are not even accredited, signifying that they do not have to meet national or regional standards, or that they are regularly reviewed for academic excellence.
If you want to know more about the charters available to your child, contact your local Board of Education.