With National School Choice Week kicking off at the beginning of each year, it’s clear that opportunity really is all around us. The ability to choose where you send your child to school is a super important choice for all families. An option that many parents might not know a lot about is charter schools.

What is a charter school? Here’s the scoop:

  1. The first charter school opened its doors in Minnesota in 1992. California closely followed suit.
  2. Charter schools were created by teachers and parents with three simple aspects in mind: opportunity, choice, and responsibility.
  3. While public schools enroll students directly from their district, charter schools enroll students through an application process. Applicants are enrolled until the school reaches capacity.
  4. Both public and charter schools are unable to pick the type of students they want. This means that despite economic, racial, or educational background, all populations of children are welcome.
  5. Public schools and charter schools are unable to teach with religious influence and must be open to students of all religions and opinions.
  6. Just like public schools, charter schools are not individually funded but instead receive their funds primarily from tax dollars. Although there are some claims that charter schools get less funding than public schools, both are funded by citizen tax dollars.
  7. Unlike most public schools that are renewed despite performance, the renewal of charter schools is subject to their performance each year. Performance can be measured in a variety of ways such as test scores or graduation rates. If the charter school is not renewed, it will either be shut down or taken over by a more successful charter school.
  8. Charter schools have a bit more flexibility in the way they choose to operate. They are not given a specific curriculum to follow and they are able to hire teachers without a union contract. Some of these teachers are able to spend more time on one subject and less on another depending on the students’ needs.
  9. Depending on the location, many charter school teachers have the ability to utilize a “traveling classroom”. This means students can learn on the beach, at the park, or anywhere the instructor feels can enhance the learning experience. This can expose students to a wider variety of education and also allow them to get some fresh air once in a while!

While this is just a basic overview, it’s good to know the differences and similarities between charter schools and traditional public schools.

There are many pros and cons to every school choice option so doing some research can make a world of difference. As a parent, you are your child’s best advocate. Whatever your decision may be, take advantage of the ability to choose the best school option for your child!