What is a Charter School?
Charter schools are free, publicly-funded, independently-operated schools of choice that are allowed to operate with more autonomy than traditional public schools in exchange for increased accountability. There are no admissions criteria; any student who is grade-level eligible can enroll through a non-discriminatory admissions lottery. Charter schools are offered certain freedoms— namely freedom over the budget, curriculum and personnel—in exchange for this increased academic accountability.
Charter schools operate under five-year performance contracts, and are held to the same New York State Regents’ performance standards established for all public schools. A not-for-profit Board of Trustees governs charter schools.
How are Charter Schools Different from Western NY or Buffalo Public Schools?
Charter schools can be started by educators, parents, community leaders and not-for profit organizations. Because they are held to very high standards and are responsible for educating public school students, charter schools are approved only after a rigorous review process. Once schools open, they are governed by a not-for-profit board of trustees. They are exempt from many state and local regulations regarding curriculum development, personnel hiring and financial management, but must succeed in hitting established targets for their academic programs.
How Commonplace are Charter Schools?
The first state charter school law was passed by Minnesota in 1991. Since then, charter schools have expanded rapidly throughout the United States; currently, there are over 2.5 million students enrolled in more than 6,500 schools in 41 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In 2016, there were 16 charter schools in Western New York, serving over 8,000 students.
How are Charter Schools Funded?
Charter schools receive a per-pupil allocation from the state. This per-pupil allocation varies from year to year, but in the City of Buffalo, in general, has been routinely equivalent to approximately 40% of the total per pupil expenditure of a Buffalo public school student. In order to make up for this funding discrepancy, charter schools must privately fundraise.
What are the Benefits of Enrolling My Child in a Charter School?
Charter schools provide an innovative alternative to traditional public schools. With their high degree of autonomy, aggressive performance goals and strict accountability, charter schools:
- Enable teachers to be more creative and innovative in their teaching methods and subject matter;
- Provide an added education resource in areas underserved by public schools;
- Tend to be smaller in classroom size and overall student body for more personalized attention;
- Allow parents to choose a school based on what they think will work best for their children;
- Are held accountable for meeting student performance goals.