Charter Schools 101
Charter Schools 101
- Are charter schools public
- How can I apply for a charter school? Are there admission requirements?
- Does it matter where I live? What is the attendance boundary?
- How does the lottery system work?
- How are charter schools funded?
- Do charters receive the same amount of funding as traditional district schools?
- What types of educational programs do charters offer?
- Are charter schools held academically accountable?
- Do charter school teachers have to have credentials?
Charters schools are public schools. They are non-sectarian, tuition-free and open to any student who wishes to attend. Charter schools allow parents, teachers and the community to transform our public school system. Choice is a powerful tool for parents seeking access to quality education for their children.
Charter schools are open to ALL children and they are committed to serving a student body that reflects the local community. Enrollment figures show that charter school students are just as diverse (racially and economically) as students who attend traditional district schools.
By law, charter schools cannot have admission processes that unlawfully discriminate against students. Charter schools accept all students who want to attend. If there are more students who want to attend than there are seats available, a charter school will use a process to randomly select students, often times a lottery system.
As schools of choice, all charter schools are open to any student who wants to apply, regardless of where he or she lives, space permitting. Independent Study or non-classroom based schools have some geographical limitations which permit them to enroll only students from the county where they are authorized, or from adjacent counties.
In California, traditional district school and charter public schools are funded under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) which allocates state and local tax dollars to public education agencies based on the number of pupils in each grade level. Additional funding is provided for students with high needs, such as low-income pupils and English learners and foster youth. Public funding generally follows the student to the public school the parents choose, whether a charter school or a traditional district school. When charter schools are funded, there is no overall loss of public school money because charter schools are public schools.
Charter schools receive less per pupil funding even though the funding follows each student. A historical and significant funding inequity between charter schools and traditional school districts has been clearly documented by the State Legislative Analyst, Rand Research and others. Historically, the gap has exceeded $600 per pupil in base state operating funds. These inequities are often more significant than reported because charter schools do not have equitable access to facilities or facilities funding, and often must pay for facilities out of their general operating funds. Charter schools also rarely have access to local school bonds or parcel taxes that benefit traditional schools. Charter schools are also denied access to some large programs, such as Target Instructional Improvement Grants (TIIG) and Transportation.
The LCFF has reduced some of this inequity because charters are now funded in much the same way other public schools are. But structural inequities in the LCFF prohibit many charter schools from receiving concentration grants for all of their neediest students because their concentration grant funding is capped at the district average.
Every charter school is allowed the freedom to create its own educational methodology. Teachers, students, parents and administrators all have a say in the types of instructional methods, materials and academic programs the school offers. Charter school models include, but are not limited to: college preparation, dual language immersion, performing arts, math, science, technology and much more. Furthermore, all academic programs must align with the Common Core State Standards, and charter school students must participate in state-required standardized testing. Charter schools must also develop a Local Control Accountability Plan, which is a required component for the Local Control Funding Formula.
Charter public schools, unlike traditional public schools, are academically accountable in two ways. They are held accountable by their authorizer and, most importantly, by the families they serve. When a team of school developers submit their charter petition, they must define their academic goals. To be authorized, their goals must be rigorous. In order to stay open, they must meet or exceed those goals.
Families make the choice to enroll their children in charter schools, and families can remove them if they are dissatisfied with the school. A charter school that neglects its academic duties will soon find that its enrollment has dwindled, and major changes may be necessary for the school to remain open.
California law gives charter schools autonomy and flexibility in exchange for increased accountability. Charter schools must be renewed at least every five years by the school district or authorizer to ensure they have good academic results, and that they are operating in a fiscally and operationally responsible manner. CCSA advocates for rigorous academic accountability so that chronically underperforming charter schools are closed and higher performing charter schools can help even greater numbers of students achieve academic success.
Guajome's Superintendent, Kevin Humphrey, provides insight and updates about charter public schools in California for Guajome stakeholders and the community.
- Issue 1: What Makes Guajome a Special Place
- Issue 2: The History of Guajome
- Issue 3: The Truth About Charter Public Schools
- Issue 4: Call to Action!
- Issue 5: Charter Success
|Issue No. 1
Hello everyone! I hope this message finds you well! I am writing to you today to introduce you to something new that I have been working on for the 2022-2023 school year. This year, I would like to take some time to share a little bit about the history of charter public schools in the state of California and the foundational role Guajome Schools has played in ensuring that families in northern San Diego county and its surrounding communities have a choice in their educational opportunities.
Guajome is truly a special place. The number one reason for that is the people who are a part of this school. It is a group of people who choose to be a part of an organization that has a clear mission that serves the needs of its community without some of the constraints that are oftentimes placed upon traditional public schools. I highlighted the word “choose” because it is the keyword in that sentence. When people choose to be a part of “something”, they then have a vested interest in that “something” succeeding. This, in a nutshell, is the key to the success of charter public schools like ours. It means that more often than not, you have stakeholders coming together to find better ways to make the organization function no matter the obstacles. That is how Guajome has grown to become who we are today, and what we need to happen to sustain that growth in the future.
Over the next couple of months, I will be writing about our school’s history and the role it has played in providing a quality educational choice for our families. Additionally, I will talk about the misinformation that is out there as it pertains to charter public schools and I will share with you data and information that will help refute many of these misunderstandings. I will also spend time highlighting how Guajome and its stakeholders have benefited from the charter status and what we can all do to ensure that we continue to have the flexibility to adapt to the ever-changing needs of our community. Lastly, I will spend some time talking about how it is important to come together as a community to advocate for not just our school, but for schools like ours as well.
I look forward to sharing our story with you throughout the year. It is something that I am truly passionate about and hopefully, it helps you to become more involved with supporting and sustaining Guajome and schools that are like us!
|Issue No. 2
Thank you to all who have read Issue No. 1 of our Charter Connections series. Today, in Issue No. 2, I will be writing about the history of Guajome Schools.
Before we start talking about Guajome, I think it is important to take a look at how charter public schools got their start in California. In 1992, then state senator Gary Hart was concerned about the state of public education in California. As a result, he introduced The California Charter Schools Act as a means to achieve the following goals:
|Issue No. 3
Hello everyone! Thank you for taking the time to read the third issue of our Charter Connections Series. Issue one of the series focused on what makes Guajome such a special place, while issue two focused on the history of Guajome schools and the role our organization has played in the charter movement. In issue three, I would like to take the time to talk about some of the key misconceptions that are often attributed to charter public schools.
MYTH #1: Charter schools are not public schools; they are private schools or they are magnet schools.
FACT: Charter schools ARE public schools. If a student wants to attend a charter public school and there is space available, then they are allowed to attend that charter public school. Sometimes, there may be high demand and few spaces available for students at a particular school. This is when a publicly held entrance lottery will take place. Charters do not have entrance exams, admission essays, or tuition, which contradicts another misconception that charter public schools choose only the highest-performing students to attend. Charter schools are public schools through and through.
MYTH #2: Charter schools have zero accountability measures.
FACT: Again, this could not be further from the truth. First and foremost, if a charter public school is not successful then families will choose to go elsewhere. Secondly, every charter public school has an entity that provides oversight to ensure that our educational program, our fiscal status, and our board governance meet and exceed the standards that the state has established for charter public schools. If that entity finds that a school has failed in any one of these three criteria, then that school can be closed. In the case of Guajome Park Academy, Vista Unified School District provides that oversight to our organization to ensure compliance and success. This is different from a traditional public school where if a failure to meet any of these criteria takes place, they are not closed down and they are given a myriad of opportunities to fix their issues.
MYTH #3: Billionaires support charter schools, so they can profit from them.
FACT: This misconception centers around a campaign entitled “Kids not Profits.” The truth is that “for-profit” charter schools are not allowed to operate in the state of California. This has been the case for over five years now. Charter public schools are non-profit organizations that have the flexibility to meet the needs of their student population in an efficient, transparent, and effective manner.
Many of these misconceptions come from the fact that not all states have these rules for charter public schools. While laws differ from state to state, California has some of the more stringent laws governing charter public schools in the country. Additionally, there are people who want to see public charter schools fail (we will spend more time on why this is further down the road) who often use these misconceptions to make it difficult for charters to be able to positively impact their community. In the end, taking the time to fully understand what charter schools are and what they are not will help you to speak knowledgeably about the subject. If you are interested in learning more about charter public schools in the state of California, then please take the time to visit our advocacy group’s webpage as well as the California Department of Education’s webpage.
Issue No. 4
Hello Guajome Stakeholders!
This year, we have spent some time learning about charter schools through our “Charter Connection” installments. One of the things that we have talked about is that sometimes we need to reach out to our political leaders to ask for support when it comes to legislation that helps to support charter schools. Today’s message is to do exactly that - a call to action.
SB 739 (Alvarado Gil) has been introduced in the California State Senate and it would allow charter schools to extend their renewal process by two years. Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools are held accountable for student performance by going through a charter renewal. If there is an academic, fiscal, or governance issue with the school, then the charter school can be closed down. Needless to say, renewals are a difficult process that requires accurate data to assure that charter schools are actively supporting student learning and growth. As a result of the pandemic, it has become more difficult to develop accurate data because of learning loss, lengthy absences for students and staff as a result of Covid, and because of the number of students who are transitioning from one school to another. This bill would allow for Guajome and other charter schools to have two additional years before we would have to undergo the rigorous renewal process.
We are asking all of our Guajome Stakeholders to take a few short minutes to reach out to their local legislator and let them know that you support SB 739. The California Charter Schools Association has provided a link to a form letter that makes it even easier to connect with your congressperson. You can click on this link to send the letter. (Spanish translation is available on this page as well.)
Thank you all for your support, and if you have any questions, then please feel free to reach out!
Hello everyone and welcome back to the 2023-2024 school year! As many of you remember, we spent some time talking about different topics related to charter schools last year. We talked about the history of charter schools and why they started, we talked about the misinformation regarding charter schools, we talked about the advantages of charter schools, and lastly, we talked about the importance of advocating for charter schools. Hopefully you learned something along the way, and I want to continue that dialogue throughout the upcoming school year.
Before we get started with that though, I wanted to talk about the 2022-2023 school year for charter schools because there are a lot of things to be proud of. First of all, charter schools in the state of California have never been more popular. Charter schools are currently experiencing an approval rating of 55% according to a recent poll conducted by the California Charter Schools Association. This is an increase of 8 points since the last poll which was taken in 2020. While public education has faced a tremendous amount of scrutiny as it relates to their response to the pandemic, charter schools have been lauded for their response and these numbers prove that.
Additionally, a recent study conducted by the Credo Institute of Stanford University stated that charter schools continue to outperform traditional public schools when it comes to improving academic performance in both math and English language arts. Again, as we continue to recover from the negative effects of the pandemic, charter schools continue to provide a high quality educational option for their community.
Lastly, with the help of the charter community, charter schools earned a one year extension for charter renewals. So instead of Guajome Park Academy facing an arduous charter renewal during the 2026-2027 school year, we now have the ability to wait until the 2027-2028 school year. This was one of the first pro-charter bills that has been passed by the legislature and signed by the governor in a number of years. This was a result of a lot of hard work by our advocates and the many charter school families and staff who called their local congressperson asking for their support of this measure.
Those wins were much needed for the charter community, and we look forward to building on that momentum as we move into a new school year. Your hard work and support will be important when it comes to achieving these victories and we are excited to be able to work with our charter friends as we help to continue to provide choices and options for families throughout the community and the state of California.