Community Leaders


As neighborhood schools improve, fewer urban families move to the suburbs in search of quality public education, helping communities retain a stronger tax base.. Charter schools purchase or lease and renovate vacant and dilapidated properties. Community-based organizations often start their own schools, and as these charter schools mature they expand their services, sometimes growing into comprehensive community organizations.


What sets charter schools apart from traditional public schools is their ability to: (1) increase opportunities for learning and access to quality education for all students, (2) create choice for parents and students within the public school system, (3) provide a system of accountability for results in public education, (4) encourage innovative teaching practices, (5) create new professional opportunities for teachers, (6) encourage community and parent involvement in public education, and (7) leverage improved public education broadly.


The educational needs of some children are not being met in their current school setting. Parents who want to change that setting, however, do not have that option unless they can afford private school tuition or unless they are in a position to homeschool. Charter schools offer those parents the opportunity to send their children to – and even help design and/or govern – a public school that meets those needs. This results in a sense of “ownership” among the parents who choose to send their children to the schools, which leads to a higher level of parental involvement in helping the school succeed.

Local school districts can benefit because charter schools offer an opportunity for new teaching methods, new curricula, extra emphasis on reading or math or some other subject, variations in schedules, etc. to be tested in a smaller setting than an entire school or district. As these methods are implemented, they can be “fine-tuned” much more easily in a small setting. Once they are perfected, other schools or entire districts can choose whether or not to adopt them on a larger scale. Another benefit for local districts is that charter schools can relieve overcrowding.


Any person or business or organization or college or anyone else may apply to the local school board or the state school board to be granted a charter. However, the exhaustive application process ensures that no one who is granted a charter will be a “fly-by-night” operation. First of all, the person or group must form a non-profit corporation specifically organized to operate a charter school, and they must begin the application process for a tax-exempt designation from the Internal Revenue Service. This process in itself will weed out those who illegally discriminate and others who are not willing to do the “due diligence” necessary to ensure a well-conceived operating plan. Other aspects of the application process require enough work and research to provide reasonable assurance that no inappropriate person or group will be granted a charter. However, if the application is complete and the applicants are deemed competent, a school board will not be allowed to reject the application simply because it disagrees with the approach the school will be using. Usually the organizers comprise the original board of directors of the school, but an election is required in the first year of operation, where school staff and the parents of the students elect a more permanent board, the term of which is specified in the charter. Measures will be required to ensure fair and open elections.


©2012 MS Center for Public Policy
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