A common misconception regarding charter schools is that they are not public schools. Individuals who are unfamiliar with charter schools may believe that because they are not affiliated with the public-school district in their community that they are private institutions. Charter schools are public institutions that reflect similar goals that public schools wish to achieve for students but with significant differences in their requirements, focus, and operation.
Since charter schools design their own charters, which dictate how the school will be run, they may have more freedom and flexibility to cater to a specific student population. They may need to follow basic educational standards set out by the state to receive state funding, but most decisions for the charter school will be made by the board of trustees, who use guidelines drawn up by the school as reference.
Both charter and public schools cannot request students to pay tuition or discriminate against any student. Public schools may receive funding through local, state, or federal means from local taxes. Although charter schools rely on public funding, they can receive private funding as well. Public funding for charter schools, though, is made available on a per-pupil basis and may not be as plentiful as what public schools receive.
While public schools require specific certifications for teachers mandated by the state, charter schools may be more lenient in their qualifications for instructors. Depending on the state, charter schools may not require their teachers to possess any type of certification. Public schools require teachers to have proper certification as legislated by the state school board.
Students must apply to a charter school while public school students only need to enroll. If a specific number of spots exist at a charter school due to limited accommodations, applicants may be selected through a lottery system.
The state board of education creates strict standards and accountability measures that public schools must follow. Charter schools differ greatly because the fundamental purpose is to create their own rules and offer programs that support their vision. Class materials and curricula may be adjusted according to students’ needs, and the school may choose a theme such as the arts upon which to focus.
For information on ongoing legal matters involving charter schools or legal representation on education law issues, call MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser at 484-318-7106 or contact us online. We are in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and we serve clients throughout the state.