What is a Charter School?

Charter School 101
There are many common misconceptions about charter schools and often misinformation is used by opponents to argue against charter schools. The following are some quick facts you can use to clarify the truth about charter schools and provide others with a better understanding of what charter schools do and how they operate.

Charter schools are independent public schools that operate under a contract or charter. With their rigorous curriculum programs, and unique educational approaches—such as longer school days and a longer school year—charter schools offer quality and choice in the public education system.

Charter schools trade operational freedom and flexibility for higher levels of accountability than traditional public schools. Charter schools are held accountable to the parents and students they serve, based on how well they meet the academic performance goals established in their charter, and how they manage their fiscal and operational responsibilities.

Authorizers
Charter schools are created by application to a designated charter entity (also known as a charter-school authorizer). The Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York is a designated charter entity under state law. The Board of Regents has directed the Commissioner of Education and the New York State Education Department to develop and issue a Request for Proposal (RFP), to conduct an application-review process on its behalf, and to recommend action on charter-school applications.

Governance
Charter schools are overseen by a governing Board of Trustees. High-performing charter schools characteristically are governed by a Board with a mixture of backgrounds and expertise relevant to a public, not-for-profit educational organization. Such experience optimally includes teaching, administration, legal expertise, real estate and facilities, financial management and accounting, fundraising and development, community engagement, and family involvement.

Autonomy
Charter schools operate with substantial autonomy and flexibility in comparison to traditional public schools. Charter-school operators have the opportunity and responsibility to decide the best ways to allocate resources, such as time, people, and money, to best meet the needs of their students within the bounds of New York State's Charter Schools Act but free of some of the legal constraints that apply to other public schools.

Accountability
Performance-based accountability is a central component of charter-school policy in New York State. The Charter Schools Act requires that schools have clear, measurable academic performance standards under which they will operate and are evaluated. In addition, schools must be financially accountable and comply with the same health and safety standards, and federal special-education laws, civil rights, and student-assessment requirements applicable to other public schools.

How are students admitted to charter schools?
Any child eligible for admission to a traditional public school is eligible for admission to a public charter school. All charter schools must enroll students through a blind lottery.

Can charter schools charge tuition?
No. As public schools, charter schools cannot charge tuition.

Charter schools are secular, tuition-free public schools that are operated as independent education corporations formed for this purpose. New York's charter school legislation offers students, families, and educators more choices in public education, allows schools autonomy and flexibility in how they operate, and requires performance-based accountability standards.

How are charter schools funded?
As public schools, charter schools are funded by public tax dollars that pass through the student's school district of residence. A portion of the per-pupil amount that a school district spends follows a student to the charter school. It is important to note that because not all monies received by a school district are included in the calculation, charter schools receive only between 60% and 80% of what school districts actually spend on a per-pupil basis.

Do public charter schools receive state building aid or other public funds that public school districts receive for capital purposes?
No. State building aid is not included in the formula for identifying per-pupil aid, nor are charter schools eligible to receive other public funds that school districts have access to for capital construction and renovation.

Is there a time limit to a charter?
Yes. Charters are issued for a period not to exceed five years. A charter may also be renewed for up to five years.