Can Charter Schools Deny Students?

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Public charter school student looking at camera with National Alliance for Public Charter Schools branding

The answer to “Can charter schools deny students?” is a beautiful-sounding “no.” Charter schools are free, public, and open to all students.

Just let the magnitude of that sink in.

When a student is attending a district school that isn’t serving their needs, a charter school is often their only shot at attending a high-performing school and gaining access to opportunities that come only through an excellent education. For many families, private schooling isn't affordable or accessible. Instead, charter schools can provide children with a tuition-free, high-quality school option.

Because charter schools are public schools, they accept all students. This fact remains true for children with special needs as well. According to the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools, charter schools serve a similar percentage of special needs students as traditional district schools, at 11 percent and 12 percent respectively.

Many charter schools specialize in a custom curriculum tailored specifically for the needs of their students and mission of their school. For example, Digital Pioneers Academy—located in Ward 8 in Washington D.C.—is the first computer science middle school in our nation’s capital. If a parent across the city in Ward 2 believes that their child would thrive learning from Digital Pioneer Academy’s high-tech curriculum, they can apply for their child to attend.

Most charter schools have an enrollment period when parents can submit applications for their child to attend. Student enrollment is based on a first-come, first-served basis, and once capacity is reached, additional students are placed on a waitlist. By law, if there are more applications submitted than seats available, the schools will hold a randomized blind charter school lottery to decide which students are admitted. Schools can set some preferences for students, such as allowing siblings to attend the same school.

Regardless of a family’s household income, religion, or ethnicity, charter schools exist to provide all students with a local high-quality school option. Charter schools are public schools that level the playing field for all students by denying access to none of them.


Shaelyn Macedonio is the senior manager of media relations at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.


Still have questions about charter schools? Check out our FAQ page.


February 6, 2020 - 12:43pm

Hello, the same is being requested of parents here in Southern California. It seems to be that the documentation being requested should be irrelevant as an application requirement (public schools require no such thing). Although there is value in the information, that is something should come after acceptance but not conditionally up front. It gives the perception schools are looking for the "ideal" student and consequently the question and reply atop this page a little suspect (or at least uncomfortably unconvincing). As this website is being hosted by a national alliance, I have to presume a staff person could readily provide a clear and public answer to these inquiries. Your assistance in respectfully requested. Thank you in advance for allowing this forum.

March 31, 2020 - 09:25am
Laura Perkins

This article is somewhat misleading unless the rules for charters differ form state-to-state. The implication is that any student can simply move over to a charter school if the parent feels their child is being ill-served by their traditional public schools. Parents must apply for a seat in a charter and the student can be admitted IF a seat exists. Typically charters hold a lottery each year for students who have applied for the upcoming year. Students who get a seat still must complete the enrollment information that typically requires the information such as attendance, discipline, grades, etc. This information is needed in order to better serve the student in the charter school.

April 1, 2020 - 05:10pm

Hi, our daughter recently was accepted to a Charter school! 🙌
She is going into the 9th grade. They are asking for transcripts from middle school. Can she be denied her seat for a suspension?
Thank you