Charter School FAQs » The Truth About Charters

The Truth About Charters

Charter Schools are Public Schools
MYTH: Charter schools are not public schools.
FACT: As defined in federal and state law, charter schools are public schools. They must meet the same academic standards that all public schools are required to meet:
  • tuition-free and open to all students
  • non-sectarian, and do not discriminate on any basis
  • publicly funded by local, state, and federal tax dollars based on enrollment, like other public schools; and
  • held accountable to state and federal academic standards
Charters Serve All Students
MYTH: Charter schools skim or cherry-pick the best students from traditional public schools.
FACT: Public charter schools are generally required to take all students who want to attend.
If there are more interested students than available seats, the schools are generally required to hold lotteries, which randomly determine which students will be enrolled.
Unlike magnet schools overseen by school districts, public charter schools cannot selectively admit students. According to federal law, they must accept all students, including students with disabilities and English Learners (ELs), regardless of previous academic performance.
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education revised its long-standing policy requiring charter schools to use a “blind” lottery when they are oversubscribed. Where it is permitted by state law, charters can now use “weighted” lotteries to preference “educationally disadvantaged” students. This change will likely result in charter schools serving an even greater share of disadvantaged children than they already do.
Charter Schools Serve English Learners
Charter schools serve fewer English Learners than traditional public schools.
FACT: There is no significant difference in the percentage of of English Learners (ELs) served by traditional or public charter schools.
The most recent Department of Education survey data show that 10 percent of charter school students are ELs, compared to 9 percent of students in traditional public schools, however, there is no measurable difference between the two groups. More importantly, EL students are showing great academic success in charter schools.
Public Charter School Students are Excelling Academically
Public charter school students do no better than traditional public school students.
FACT: Between 2010 and 2013, 15 of 16 independent studies found that students attending public charter schools do better academically than their traditional public school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.