WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHARTER SCHOOLS AND TRADITIONAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS?
Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning teachers and students choose them. They operate with freedom from many regulations that apply to traditional public schools. They generally offer teachers and students more authority to make decisions than most traditional public schools. Instead of being accountable for compliance with rules and regulations, they are accountable for academic results and for upholding their charter.
ARE CHARTER SCHOOLS REALLY PUBLIC SCHOOLS?
Yes. Charter schools are prohibited from charging tuition or discriminating in enrollment. The school must meet all applicable health, safety, and civil rights requirements. They are subject to financial audits in the same manner as a school district. They are subject to the same guidelines on teaching religious doctrine as other public schools. They must answer to either the local or state school board for their performance, and they must issue annual reports, available to the public, that will include a financial statement, the progress in reaching academic goals, and a measure of parental satisfaction.
Furthermore, if the school violates its charter, it will not be allowed to continue to operate. If the school does not perform to the satisfaction of parents, it will lose students (and the money that follows the child) and will either have to improve its performance (to attract more students) or close. This is more accountability to the public – and to parents – than most other public schools.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF CHARTER SCHOOLS?
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.
WHO TEACHES AT CHARTER SCHOOLS?
Teachers choose to teach at charter schools (and charter schools choose their teachers); the district does not assign teachers to work there. Schools must inform parents concerning the qualifications of the teachers. Teachers will be eligible for the same health insurance and retirement benefits as teachers at regular schools.
WHY WOULD I WANT TO TEACH AT A CHARTER SCHOOL?
Many teachers, including those who may otherwise retire, are attracted to the smaller setting, the reduced paperwork, and the increased influence over school policy that charter schools can offer. Especially with impending teacher shortages, this will offer a way to encourage teachers to continue teaching
WHO OPERATES CHARTER SCHOOLS?
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.