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.


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