A charter school is a publicly-financed school free of the liberal teachers' unions and exempt from many of the usual requirements imposed by the state board of education. This exemption is permitted in return for a promise to deliver higher student achievement, as set out in the school's charter. In the event a charter school does not meet certain performance or other standards, unlike a public school it can be closed.
As of 2020, there are 3 million American children in charter schools, and another million who are on waiting lists or otherwise trying to get into charter schools.
Unlike private, parochial, or Christian schools, charter schools must (subject to space availability) accept students regardless of religious view, educational ability (and, in fact, many charter schools specialize in teaching students with learning challenges), or prior disciplinary problems (except for the most serious cases).
The NEA opposes charter schools, which typically hire teachers who are not organized in a union such as NEA. In addition, public school teachers almost automatically get tenure — a lifetime job guarantee — after a short period of time, typically three years.
Charter schools are organized to overcome inefficiencies and/or illogical requirements that retard education, such as social promotion and union-mandated raises which are unrelated to teacher effectiveness (see merit pay). Though parents may charter a school, most of them are operated by either non-profit groups, or for-profit corporations such as Responsive Ed out of Lewisville, Texas. Sadly, some charter schools are not started for educational purposes: NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders opened a school in Texas -- Prime Prep, the name of which comes from his "Prime Time" nickname -- which was later closed as it was little more than a sports academy masquerading as a school, with virtually no financial or other accountability.
Charter schools by State
- As of 2010, charter schools are legal in 40 states plus D.C., only the following states did not allow any charter schools: Alabama, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.
- Minnesota enacted the first charter-school legislation 16 years ago. California has more charter schools than any other state.
- Illinois has 52 charter schools (as of 2011-2012), mostly in Chicago. The requirements for establishing a charter school in Illinois are as follows:
- approval of the design plan by the local school board (or, if denied, approval by the State Board of Education on appeal)
- teachers do not need to be certified (except in Chicago), but need to meet other qualifications such as a college degree
- negotiated funding from school district of 75%-125% of its funding per capita.
- Missouri allows charter schools in St. Louis City (where there are about 20) and Kansas City areas only, and elsewhere when certain limiting conditions are satisfied. In 2012, Missouri recently passed SB 576 to expand charter schools while requiring greater transparency and accountability for them. Missouri has not changed its charter school law since 2016.
- Although Texas has traditionally been friendly toward alternate education platforms, it has maintained a fairly hard cap on the number of schools permitted, and the cap is a statewide cap as opposed to a cap in a specific area (e.g. Houston or Dallas, which have large, ineffective public school districts). In addition, in the large cities, attempts have been made to stop charter schools from opening (by denying building permits, zoning changes, and similar tactics).
Most states require that teachers in charter schools be certified.
- Charter schools promise to improve student achievement as a condition of relief from some of the rules and regulations that apply to traditional public schools ... [ NEA]
- http://www.isbe.state.il.us/charter/pdf/schools_count.pdf Illinois law caps the number of its charter schools at 75 in Chicago and 45 outside of Chicago (currently there are 38 in Chicago and only 14 outside of Chicago).