Getting the Facts: 4 Myths about Charter Schools

lead image

Myth or Fact? Charter school edition.

After the disruption of the past two school years, many schools across the country are reopening their doors for in-person learning and excitement levels are high.  

In celebration of Back to School Month, we’re sharing the myth-busting facts and figures on innovative public schools—also known as charter schools—changing the game for public education. Join in by sharing out some of your favorite facts! 

Myth #1: Charter schools are not public schools. 

The fact is, all charter schools are public schools as defined by federal and state law. Here are the three reasons that make charter schools public schools: 

  1. Charter schools are tuition-free and open to all students who want to attend. They do not have any kind of admissions process—no essays, interviews, or auditions. 

  1. Charter schools are held to the same academic standards that all public schools are required to meet. 

  1. Charter schools are publicly funded by local, state, and federal tax dollars based on enrollment, like other public schools. 

Say it with us: Charter schools are ALWAYS public schools. 

Myth: Charter schools aren't public school | Fact: Charter schools are ALWAYS public schools

Myth #2: Charter schools are for-profit.  

We hear this a lot, but guess what? There is no such thing as a “for-profit” charter school! All charter schools are nonprofit entities with a mission to put kids first.  

Now, charter schools may, in certain states, choose to contract with a business that offers management services. But all public schools—district and charter—contract with businesses for items like text books and school supplies, and services like plumbing and cafeteria service. I think we can all agree this blanket, inaccurate term does not apply.  

All public schools are here to serve students! Charter schools raise the bar of public education in every community they serve. 

Myth: There are "for-profit" charter schools. Fact: All charter schools are nonprofit entities that put students first. Always.

Myth #3: Charter schools are not held accountable.  

In fact, charter schools introduce an unprecedented amount of accountability into public education. If a charter school isn’t succeeding for students and families, it can be shut down.  

In addition to operating as public schools, charter schools are also responsible for adhering to the promises laid out in their charter agreement—another layer of accountability. The charter school’s authorizer is responsible for enforcing these rules. If they don’t, the charter school will no longer serve students and families. 

This all means charter schools are held directly accountable by their families and communities, in addition to public school standards! You can’t say that for all public schools. 

Myth: Charter schools aren't held accountable. Fact: Charter schools introduce an unprecedented amount of accountability into public education

Myth #4: Support for charter schools is dropping.

There’s a reason charter school enrollment increased by 62% between the 2011-12 and 2018-19 school years. Parents and families believe they work for their children and charter schools have shown that they do.  

A recent poll conducted by Morning Consult found that 58% of parents support charter schools—and that level of support grows to 70% the more they learn about these innovative public schools. 

During the pandemic, we’ve seen an unprecedented level of growth in charter school enrollment. And as parents learn they have options in their children’s education, we expect this trajectory to continue.   

Pie graph with showing support among parents for charter schools is at 58% based on what they know and grows to 70% after learning more

The bottom line? Charter schools are public schools that make public education better for all students, despite the common myths. 


Melinda Tolliver is the senior manager of digital strategy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.