A charter school is a tuition free public school, which provides instruction within grades K-12. A charter school is usually created or organized by a group of teachers, parents or community leaders and it is usually sponsored by an existing local public school board or state board of education. A charter school is generally exempt from most laws governing school districts, except where specifically noted in the law. Public charter schools may not charge tuition and may not discriminate against any pupil on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, or disability. When enrollment is oversubscribed, students are entered in a lottery and drawn at random. The lottery is open to all students and charter schools are openly attended by choice.

The term "charter school means" that:

  • is founded by a developer as a public school, or is adapted from an existing public school, and is operated under public supervision and control;
  • operates in pursuit of a specific set of educational objectives determined by the school’s developer and agreed to by the authorized public chartering agency;
  • provides a program of elementary or secondary education, or both;
  • is nonsectarian in its programs, admissions policies, employment practices, and all other operations, and is not affiliated with a sectarian school or religious instruction;
  • does not charge tuition;
  • complies with the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;
  • is a school to which parents choose to send their children, and that admits students on the basis of a lottery, if more students apply for admission than can be accommodated;
  • agrees to comply with the same federal and state audit requirements as do other elementary and secondary schools in the state, unless such requirements are specifically waived for the purpose of this program;
  • meets all applicable federal, state, and local health and safety requirements;
  • operates in accordance with state law; and
  • has a written performance contract with the authorized public chartering agency in the state that includes a description of how student performance will be measured pursuant to state assessments that are required of other schools and pursuant to any other assessments agreeable to the authorizing agency.

Charter Myths

MYTH: Charter schools “drain money” from district public schools.
FACT: Charter schools are public schools. The money that follows the students who choose to attend charter schools remains in the public education system. In the Thompson School District, a portion of the per pupil revenue passed along to a charter school remains with the school district.

MYTH: Charter school teachers are not licensed.
FACT: The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) does not require that a charter school teacher have a teaching license, but charter schools are required to comply with all other NCLB requirements regarding “Highly Qualified Teachers.” This provides charter schools the freedom to hire the most qualified and committed teachers who come from diverse professional backgrounds and are passionate about teaching.

MYTH: Charter schools accept only the “cream of the crop” and reject under performing students.
FACT: Charter schools may not limit admission to pupils on the basis of ability. Charter schools are open to all and cannot require entrance exams. When enrollment requests exceed the number of seats available, most charter schools hold a public lottery to determine who will attend (others have first come/first served waiting lists).

MYTH: Charter schools endanger the public school system.
FACT: Charter schools are a relatively new and innovative part of the public school system. The entire public school system is strengthened when choices such as charter schools are available to students and families. When families are empowered to make decisions about their child’s education, ownership, parental involvement and accountability are increased. Having a choice is beneficial for all.

MYTH: Charter schools are not open to all students.
FACT: Charter schools serve a broad range of diverse students, including low income, racial and ethnic minorities, and students with disabilities or other special needs.