Yes—anyone can attend a charter school.
Prior to my fellowship at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, I worked for 10 years in both charter schools and local district schools in California.
While working for the district schools, I learned that many parents were misinformed about charter schools and their school models. Some parents believed charter schools were private, or that they required tuition fees. Some had questions about who can be accepted to a charter schools.
To demystify any misconceptions they had, I would share these facts about charter school students:
Charter school students come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds
Like all schools, anyone can go to a charter schools regardless of socio-economic background. In fact, charter schools serve a higher percentage of students from low-income backgrounds (56 percent) than district-run public schools (52 percent). Charter schools do not discriminate students based on their household incomes, race, gender, or academic backgrounds. The majority of the students I worked with came from low-income households and impoverished neighborhoods.
Charter school students have a variety of English language proficiency levels
Charter school leaders design schools to deliver an educational experience tailored to student’s strengths and needs, including students who are English Language Learners (ELLs). According to the Education Department, 10 percent of charter school students are ELLs, slightly higher than the nine percent of ELL students at district-run schools.
Many charter schools also support access to public education for all students, regardless of their immigration status. In a previous position, I was a development coordinator for Dream Act students. This student population was one of the most vulnerable, but they received significant attention and support from our charter school, which dedicated resources to specifically help Dreamers..
Charter school students have a variety of abilities
All students learn at a different pace and have different learning abilities. We know one size does not fit all, and charter schools have the freedom to design classrooms that meet all their students’ needs. Many charter schools offer inclusive classrooms, where general education students and special education students learn alongside each other.
Charter school students are not limited by where they live
Charter schools don’t typically have assigned school zones, so they aren’t restricted by traditional school district boundaries and students’ academic options aren’t limited by where they live. Areas with a range of charter and district public schools give parents a range of options so they can choose the school that best fits their child.
So, the answer is YES! Anyone can go to a charter school.
I have seen many charter high school students graduate and go on to college, and/or begin a vocational, technical career post-secondary. Most of these students feel extremely successful, proud, and grateful for having attended a charter school. Despite many of the obstacles that a lot of students faced, they were prepared, equipped, and mentored with the necessary skills to be successful in college, career, and life!
Marlon Greatrex is an education fellow with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and a former community resource specialist and counselor at both district and charter schools.
Looking for more information on charter schools? See our About Charter Schools page.