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About Charters

The first Massachusetts charter school opened in 1995. Today, 81 charter schools are educating more than 34,000 Massachusetts students. More than 58,000 students are on wait lists, demonstrating a high demand for the quality educational opportunities that Massachusetts charters provide. They are some of the most scrutinized, most successful charter schools in the country.

Watch this video to hear directly from parents about what their experience has been like.

Charter public schools promote choice and change

Charter public schools were created by the Education Reform Act of 1993 to provide educational choices and opportunities for Massachusetts parents and their children, and to promote change in their school districts. Founders are generally parents, community members, or members of the general public who come together to write a proposal for a school, often with a specific mission, theme, or curricular focus.

Charter schools are based on the basic premise of increased autonomy in exchange for increased accountability. Charter schools have the freedom to lengthen their school day and year to provide more time in the classroom, establish their own educational culture, hire and fire teachers for performance, and tie teacher pay to performance. In exchange they have more accountability and will be subject to closure if they do not demonstrate student achievement.

Charter schools are public schools

Charter schools are, by law, open to everyone, free of charge. They cannot—and do not—select their students. If more children want to enroll in a school than it has space for, a random lottery determines admission. Charters abide by all the same laws and rules that district schools do, are overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and are managed by a board of trustees.

Charter schools are funded through state funds

When children opt to attend charter schools, the public funds earmarked for their education move with them. To give districts time to adjust, the state provides additional local aid, specifically providing districts with double their money back over a six-year period. Charter schools meanwhile receive 22 percent less funding than districts (by the state’s own accounting). Unlike district schools, which receive state subsidies of 50 to 80 percent of the total cost of their buildings, charter public schools largely finance their own facilities.

Adapted from Massachusetts Charter Public School Association

Helpful Links:

Massachusetts Charter Public School Association

Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education 

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools