Charter School Facts
Charter School Facts

46 Educational Facts about Charter Schools

James Israelsen
By James Israelsen, Associate Writer
Published December 8, 2017Updated October 4, 2019
  • Charter schools are an alternative schooling option to traditional public or private primary and secondary schools.[2]
  • Charter schools can operate on a for-profit basis.[8]
  • Many charter schools have far higher expulsion rates than traditional public schools.[8]
  • Albert Shanker, former president of the American Federation of Teachers, warned that the real goal of the charter movement was to smash the public schools.[8]
  • Charter schools are so named because they operate according to a "charter" that outlines the school's mission, methods, and means of assessing student performance.[6]
  • Many parents and educators believe that the increased autonomy charter schools enjoy leads to better, more student-centered learning.[3]
  • Charter schools have multiplied swiftly over the past two and a half decades. As of 2016, there were over 7,000 charter schools in the United States serving more than 3 million students.[12]
  • A charter school's "charter" serves as a performance contract between the school and the state government. Charter schools must be able to satisfy the state that they are fulfilling their mission and realizing student success in order to renew their contracts, typically every three to five years.[2][6]
  • Charter school students
    Many advocates see the charter movement as the best hope for progressing American education
  • Studies on the effectiveness of charter schools are inconclusive. On the whole, the evidence seems to indicate that charter school students do not perform better than their public school peers.[5][10]
  • Charter schools are not without their critics. Some opponents of the charter movement see charter schools as a threat to public education, while many are worried about the mingling of corporate interests with education.[8]
  • Charter schools are public schools, but unlike traditional public schools where attendance is determined by zoning laws, charter schools are schools of choice, meaning that parents opt to send their children there.[6]
  • Diane Ravitch, a former US Assistant Secretary of Education and a historian of education, claims that despite the optimism surrounding the charter movement, charter schools vary drastically in quality and are not, on average, more successful than public schools.[8]
  • The first charter school was founded in Minnesota in 1991.[12]
  • The charter idea is part of a two-hundred-year effort in this country to expand opportunity, especially for those who are not wealthy and powerful.

    - Joe Nathan, Charter Schools, xxvii

  • Charter schools do not answer to their local district's board of education but are formed through a direct contract between the school and the state.[3]
  • Charter schools are given more freedom to educate as they see fit than traditional public schools, but at the price of increased accountability.[3]
  • Many educators welcome the change to teach at charter schools, as it frees them from direct control by a district school board. Many public school teachers feel that school boards stifle educational initiative as often as they support it.[7]
  • Charter School Teacher
    The expanded freedom offered by charter schools allows many teachers to explore new pedagogical methods

  • Since they are state-funded, charter schools cannot charge admission.[3]
  • Though charter schools must be willing to admit anyone, there are often far more students than there are available spots. Thus charter schools often operate on a "lottery" system; the names of prospective students are chosen at random to ensure fairness.[3]
  • A 2012 study of Michigan charter schools concluded that these schools spent less money on instruction and more on administration than their public school counterparts.[8]
  • In 1997, the charter school movement attracted the attention of veteran civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who expressed interest in starting a charter school in Detroit.[7]
  • One of the founders of the charter school movement was Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers from 1974 to 1997. He turned against the movement swiftly, however, after realizing how easily charter schools could be manipulated by private and corporate interests.[8]
  • Charter Schools Corporate
    Charter schools represent big business opportunities for many in the private sector
  • Many people in the private sector have capitalized on the charter school movement, seeing a chance to tap into the billion-dollar, tax-funded education market. Entrepreneurs in real estate and educational services have benefited greatly from the movement.[8]
  • Charter schools receive funding from the state on a per-student basis. Many states, however, do not fund charter schools equivalently with traditional public schools.[3]
  • Nearly 15% of Arizona children attend a charter school, far more than in any other state.[8]
  • Charter schools have political support in various ways both from the right and the left. Many libertarians support the movement, as it limits governmental control on curriculum and school management. A coalition of Wall Street hedge fund managers also joined the movement, creating an organization called Democrats for Education Reform (DFEC).[8]
  • The initial hope of some charter school advocates was that charter schools would collaborate with public schools and the two would mutually benefit. According to Diane Ravitch, this hope is "obsolete. In the new era, the watchword for charters was competition, not collaboration." (159)[8]
  • As of 2016, 33 states allow charter schools to be run for profit while utilizing taxpayer money.[8]
  • Most states allow public schools to transition over to charter schools if they wish.[4]
  • Charter School Failure
    There is mixed evidence regarding the effectiveness of charters in helping students who struggle in traditional schools
  • Since the "No Child Left Behind" initiative of 2001, schools have been in competition to raise student proficiency rates or risk losing government funding. Many charters find ways to exclude students with disabilities or English language-learners in order to boost their proficiency rates.[8]
  • 67% of charter schools are independently run non-profits, 20% are non-profits run by companies that manage several schools, and 13% are managed by for-profit companies.[5]
  • Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Vermont, West Virginia, and North and South Dakota are the only states that have not passed laws allowing charter schools.[4]
  • There are "cyber-charter schools," which have no physical location, but send assignments and instructions to students via the internet. The students' parents often take on the role of teaching coaches.[8]
  • Charter operators want to have it both ways. When it is time for funds to be distributed, they want to be considered public schools. But when they are involved in litigation, charter operators insist they are private organizations, not public schools.

    - Diane Ravitch, Reign of Error, 163.

  • An example of the interest of private sector entrepreneurs in charter schools is David Brain, the former head of a company called EPR Properties, a real estate investment trust. Brain praised charter school as lucrative business investments, calling them "a very stable business, very recession-resistant." (161)[8]
  • Charter schools are incredibly diverse. Some are run like boot camps, others cater to children with special needs, while some have specific educational focuses such as math and science.[8]
  • Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center - Red Mountain is a charter school that incorporates horseback riding and horse care into their curriculum.[9]
  • In some states, including Alabama, Arizona, and Louisiana, charter schools are deregulated to the point that their teachers do not even need to be certified.[4][8]
  • Charter Schools Opportunities
    Charter schools are able to specialize in ways traditional schools generally cannot
  • Karen Butterfield, a former Arizona teacher of the year, established a charter school at an Arizona museum, with which she and her students have ongoing collaboration.[7]
  • A poll conducted in the mid-90s by the University of Minnesota asked the parents of charter school children to assign a grade to their schools; nearly 90% rated the school at an A or B, as opposed to a similarly timed national poll, in which only 65% of parents rated their child's school at an A or B.[7]
  • One problem with charter schools is setting up an adequate system of educator accountability. According to Joe Nathan, the Director of the Center for School Change and an advocate of charter schools, charter schools generally continue to receive funding even if they fail to meet their goals.[7]
  • In 2009, the New York Charter School Association sued the state comptroller in order to prevent an audit of their finances, even though they receive public funding. The association argued that they were not government agencies, but rather non-profit organizations with a public purpose, which the state court agreed with. Public schools, on the other hand, can be audited with no grounds for legal objection.[8]
  • The growth of the charter movement has given rise to national charter school chains, somewhat akin to an educational version of Walmart or McDonalds. These "Educational Management Organizations" (EMOs) provide central organization and management for several schools.[8]
  • The Washington Latin Public School is a unique charter school in Washington, DC, that emphasizes classical Greek and Roman mores. Students study Latin, oratory, and classical texts.[9]
  • Charter School Athens
    Charter schools have created opportunities to invent new pedagogical methods as well as rediscover old ones

  • As of 2016, there were approximately 200 educational management organizations, or charter school management companies in the United States, operating within 28 states.[8]
  • Approximately 35% of charter schools are involved with an EMO, or charter chain school.[8]
  • The lack of traditional state oversight in charter schools has led to various dubious financial dealings in many such schools. A 2006 editorial published in the Toledo Blade reads: "What was not envisioned is that charter schools—officially known as community schools—would become cash repositories to be siphoned of sponsorship and management fees, in some cases by politically connected individuals."[1]
  • While the charter movement began in the United States, it has started to spread worldwide. The first "academies," which operate similarly to charters, appeared in Great Britain in 2003, and charter-type schools have since appeared in Canada, Chile, China, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Qatar, Singapore, and Tanzania.[11]
  • Interesting Charter School Facts INFOGRAPHIC
    Charter Infographic Thumbnail

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