Myths and Facts

Myth #1: Public charter schools are private schools.
Truth #1: Public charter schools are public schools funded by public dollars.  Like traditional district schools, they are open enrollment and tuition free.

Myth #2: Public charter schools will select (cherry-pick) the best students and take those most likely to succeed away from their lower-performing classmates.
Truth #2: Public charter schools are open enrollment. Public charter schools are required to take whoever wants to attend.  If there are more students who want to attend than the school can accommodate, the school is required to hold a lottery to randomly select students.  The Center for Research on Educational Outcomes found that before enrolling in a public charter school, the test scores of public charter school students were near or below those of their peers, indicating that there is no “creaming” effect for public charter schools.

Myth #3: Public charter schools take money from public schools.
Truth #3: Schools are funded based on the number of students they have.  If a student chooses to leave a traditional district school to attend a public charter school, the money would follow the student to the public charter school.  In the same way that money follows the student to a magnet or alternative school, education funding should be spent where it best serves the student.

Myth #4: Public charter schools will have poor hiring standards, meaning teachers will not be required to be certified.
Truth #4: Teacher quality is the most critical, classroom-based factor in raising student achievement. The rigorous authorization process that public charter schools applicants undergo will require them to describe their staffing plans prior to authorization. Applicants will be rejected if they do not ensure a highly effective teacher in each classroom. With such strict accountability and standards to meet, public charter schools will have a strong incentive to hire only the most effective teachers for their classrooms.

Myth #5: Public charter schools will lack accountability and oversight.
Truth #5: Public charter schools are given freedom to innovate with their administrative policies and instructional time so that the academic needs of each child are met. In exchange for that freedom, a public charter school is held to a high standard of achievement and accountability. A public charter school is accountable to the authorizing entity to produce specific academic results and sound fiscal practices, which would both be identified in their charter. Additionally, they are required to report their progress periodically to several groups: the authorizing entity that grants the charter, the parents who choose the school, and the taxpayers that fund it. The authorizer that grants the charter may request more frequent reports and may take action against the school if the situation calls for it.

Myth #6: Public charter schools will refuse students who require special education services.
Truth #6: As charter schools are public schools, they must abide by federal regulations prohibiting the schools from refusing students because they require special education services. Additionally, public charter schools are expected to meet the demands of all individual education plans.

Myth #7: Public charter schools are for profit.
Truth #7: Public charter schools choose their own management structure. About 12% of public charter schools across the country are run by for-profit public charter school operators.  67% of all public charter schools are independently run nonprofit, single-site schools.  20% are run by non-profit organizations that manage more than one public charter school.  For-profit public charter schools have to meet financial oversight regulations, just like any company the government contracts with to provide a service.  For-profit public charter schools receive no more money from the government than any other public school.

Myth #8: Public charter schools don’t work.
Truth #8: Research shows that when legislation is written to include high accountability standards and appropriate levels of autonomy, public charter school students outperform their traditional public school peers. Just as there are low-performing and high-performing traditional public schools, there are low-performing and high-performing public charter schools.  The difference between low-performing traditional public schools and low-performing public charter schools is that low-performing public charter schools are closed.  The most recent research on the impact of public charter schools shows that students in public charter schools outperform their peers in traditional public schools. Public charter schools do a particularly good job of serving educationally disadvantaged students – low-income and minority students performed significantly better in public charter schools than their peers in traditional public schools. In addition, public charter schools focus intently on success in college and career – children in public charter schools are more likely to graduate from high school than their traditional school peers.