Charter public schools were created by the Education Reform Act of 1993 to provide educational choice for parents, expand educational opportunity for their children, and promote change in their districts. In exchange for specific freedoms (in organizational structure, mission, and academic program), charter public schools are held to high levels of accountability; they must successfully manage school finances and operations, and they must demonstrate student achievement; if they don't, the schools can be closed. Founders are generally parents, community members, and/or members of the general public, who come together and write a proposal for a school. Often charter public schools are organized around a specific mission, theme, or curricular focus.
Charter public schools operate independently of local school districts, local government and the local teachers unions. Instead, we are overseen by the state Board of Education. Charters must be renewed every five years. If the schools do not live up to the high standards established by the state, they can be closed. Massachusetts’ application process and oversight practices have been rated the toughest in the nation. Every charter public school is managed by a board of trustees.
Charter public schools are public schools open to everyone, free of charge. We cannot – and do not – select our students. If there are more students than available seats, we hold public lotteries to determine who will attend. Since the first school opened in 1995, enrollment has steadily risen and demand has remained strong. More than 25,000 children are enrolled with 23,000 on wait lists. That’s less than 2% of statewide enrollment.
Charters are funded by taking a slice of education spending and reallocating it from district to charter when parents choose to enroll their children. The amount of money that charters receive reflects the amount of money the district spends on those students.
The state also has the most generous reimbursement plan in the country. For every dollar transferred, 100 percent goes back to the districts the first year, 60 percent the second and 40 percent the third. So, districts get two-thirds of their money back over a three-year period. This gives districts time to adjust for the loss of enrollment and funding.
Massachusetts Charter Public School Association