In 1991 Minnesota passed the first charter school law, with California following suit in 1992. In fall 2010, there were more than 5,200 charter schools serving over 1.8 million children across the country. By fall 2014, the numbers had increased to over 6,700 charter schools and 2.7 million children, with California having the largest number of students enrolled in charter schools (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics). The national charter movement continues to expand—driven both by its successes and by the public’s continued demand for choice. Faster expansion presents additional pressure on the building and sustaining of high quality charter schools.
Freedom and Accountability
Charter schools are exempt from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to traditional public schools in exchange for accountability to certain standards and results set forth in each school’s charter.
Where enrollment in a charter school is over subscribed, admission is frequently allocated by lottery-based admissions. In a 2008 survey of charter schools, 59% of the schools reported that they had a waiting list, averaging 198 students.
Charter schools that have been open for significant periods of time boast even higher achievement rates; a Harvard University study has found that charter schools that have been operating for more than 5 years outpace conventional schools by as much as 15 percent.
Some charter schools provide a curriculum that specializes in a certain field—for example, arts, STEM, etc. Others attempt to provide a higher-quality general education than nearby traditional public schools.
A charter school is usually created or organized by a group of teachers, parents, and community leaders or a community-based organization, and it is usually sponsored by an existing local public school board or county board of education.
While charter schools provide an alternative to traditional public schools, they are part of the public education system and therefore are not allowed to charge tuition.
Charter schools are opened and attended by choice.