Charter schools are open-enrollment, tuition-free, public schools. Any student can attend a public charter school and typically there are no admissions requirements. In addition, public charter schools must serve all students who seek to attend (provided there are available seats). Under the law, public charter schools cannot discriminate, and state and federal civil rights laws apply to every public charter school in the country.
If more students wish to enroll in public charter schools than the schools can accommodate, the school must hold an admissions lottery. These admission lotteries are random—everyone has an equal chance of being selected.
But some charter schools are created with a mission to serve a special blend of students. Just yesterday, the United States Department of Education released new guidance allowing public charter schools to give preference in enrollment lotteries to students who are low-income, have special education needs, are neglected or homeless, or may be learning English. This new guidance gives charter schools another tool to ensure high-quality options are available to educate more of our country’s most underserved families and students.
Unlike traditional district schools, no student is ever assigned to a charter schools. Instead, families and students choose to attend public charter schools. As schools of choice, charter schools compete with other schools to fill their seats and receive funding only for the students who enroll. As a result, the pressure is on schools to offer unique, innovating teaching models in order to attract and retain students.
Public charter schools are held to the same academic standards, established by state law, as all other public schools. And, notably, unlike traditional public schools, public charter schools can be—and sometimes are—shut down for failing to meet state academic standards. Simply put, failing charter schools are not permitted to continue operating.
All children deserve access to high-quality public schools. For families who need options, public charter schools are here to serve students of every type.
Renita Thukral is the vice president of legal affairs at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
This blog post is the fourth in a series called “5 Reasons Public Charter Schools are Great” to celebrate School Choice Week.