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About Charter Schools

Charter Schools 101

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Are charter schools public schools?

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.

 

​How can I apply for a charter school? Are there admission requirements?

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.

 

Does it matter where I live? What is the attendance boundary?

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.

 

How does the lottery system work?

If a charter school receives more students than it has spots available, it is required by law to hold a lottery to determine which students will have the opportunity to attend. Many charter schools have waitlists and may admit more students from the waitlist as spots become available.

 

How are charter schools funded?

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.

 

Do charters receive the same amount of funding as traditional district 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.

 

What types of educational programs do charters offer?

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.

 

Are charter schools held academically accountable?

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.

 

Do charter school teachers have to have credentials?

In California, charter schools are required to hire credentialed teachers for core and college preparatory subjects just like all traditional public schools.
Information provided by *California Charter Schools Association (ccsa.org)