What is a charter school?
A charter school is a free and independent public school. Charter schools are publicly funded, and open to all students through a non-discriminatory admissions lottery. Though public, they are not run by the NYC Department of Education. Charter schools operate independently, according to the terms of a performance contract or “charter.” Charter schools commit to meeting specific academic goals set by New York State, including raising student achievement, then make their own decisions about how to achieve them. Each charter school is governed by a not-for-profit board of trustees that may include educators, community members, and leaders from the private sector. Within the parameters of New York State Law, charters have a certain amount of freedom to establish their own policies, design their own educational program, and manage their human and financial resources. Charter schools are accountable, through the terms of a five-year performance contract, for high student achievement. Charter schools were established to:
- Provide families with an increased number of high quality school choices;
- Improve student achievement;
- Increase learning opportunities for all students, with an emphasis on at-risk students;
- Encourage use of innovative teaching methods/educational designs; and
- Create new professional opportunities for teachers, administrators, school staff.
How do charter schools differ from traditional public schools?
Charter schools are held accountable for how well they educate children in a safe and responsible environment based on the terms of their charter. They are judged on how well they meet the student achievement goals established by their charter, and how well they manage the fiscal and operational responsibilities entrusted to them. If they fail to deliver, they will be closed. Parents, teachers, community groups, organizations, or individuals interested in creating additional educational opportunities for children can start charter schools. Local and state school boards, colleges and universities, can sponsor them.
How are charter schools funded?
Charter schools are public schools and like other public schools, they receive public funding from the City and State. Their funding is based on the number of students attending. As public schools, charter schools are eligible for federal funds that are available to traditional public schools, such as IDEA and Title I and II funds. However, in a number of states, they do not receive the full equivalent of their district counterparts. For instance, New York charters only receive about 70% of a district school's total per-pupil allocation. Recent federal legislation provides grants to help charters with start-up costs.
Do charter schools charge tuition?
No. Charter schools are public schools and cannot charge tuition.
Who can enroll in a charter school?
Any child who is qualified under the laws of this State for admission to a public school is qualified for admission to a charter school. Immunization requirements for enrollment in the public schools apply to charter school students as well. Admission to a charter school cannot be limited on the basis of disability, race, creed, gender, national origin, religion, ancestry, intellectual ability, measures of achievement or aptitude, or athletic ability.
On what basis may a charter school select students?
In general, a charter school may establish no admissions requirements except that students meet the age or grade level requirements specified in its charter. By law, charter schools must have a fair and open admission process, conducting outreach and recruitment to all segments of the community they serve. A charter school must provide admissions preference to enrolled students who will be returning to the school, to siblings of children enrolled in the school, and to students who reside in the school district of location. Charter school students are admitted on a first-come, first served basis, or by lottery when applicants exceed available slots. A charter school may deny admission to a student who is currently under suspension or expulsion by another public school until the period of suspension or expulsion has expired.
Are charter schools required to enroll students with special needs?
Yes. A charter school may not discriminate against or limit the admission of children on any unlawful basis, including on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, intellectual ability, measures of achievement or aptitude, athletic ability, race, creed, religion or ancestry.
What if more students apply than a charter school can enroll?
If the number of applicants exceeds the number of available seats, a random public lottery must be held, in accordance with Section 119.5 of Commissioner’s Regulations, Random Selection Process for Charter School Student Applicants.