What Are Charter Schools? A Detailed Guide

Establishing charter schools is one of the best ways of reforming education in a country. It gives everyone the opportunity to access formal education. This is because students do not need to pay tuition fees in charter schools. It is free of charge.

The main objective of this initiative is to encourage formal education in society, particularly, the underprivileged children.

When more individuals in a population have easy access to education, it leads to an improvement in the human capital in that society which would cause economic growth and development – a goal that every country aspires to reach.

As such, education should be a priority for any government in power because it is part of the way to enhance sustainable development.

Furthermore, it is possible for a government to own a charter school and it can be privately owned as well. Whatever party is in charge of a charter school, the major vision is to ensure that students in the school are well-taught and equipped to become useful in the future.

Do you want to know more about charter schools? You have come to the right place. I will be explaining what charter schools mean, their characteristics, as well as their advantages and disadvantages in this article. Kindly read along.

Definition of a charter school

A charter school can be described as a publicly funded school but it is run independently by a person or a group of people.

The school still maintains its independent nature because it does not follow the rules that apply to federal and state-owned schools which are generally known as public schools.

In addition, they have the power to set their lessons according to the needs of the students and they can also influence who gets hired and fired into the system.

Furthermore, to regulate the running of the school, there is a high level of accountability by the sponsors of the school. They are also known as charter school authorizers.

Charter school authorizers include the government, a private organization, a university body, and a non-governmental organization that sponsors and oversees the independent activities of the school.

The school is held accountable to the authorizers and they can be closed down if there is a breach of the agreed contract.

You may own a charter school by presenting an application that contains the proposed school’s mission and vision, organizational structure, curriculum, finances, and other important features that would help the school run smoothly.

A governmental agency that is relevant to the educational sector then approves the application for your school to run.

Additionally, after approval, the government agency creates a contract with the school’s leadership or stakeholders which describes the school’s expectations, and responsibilities as well as other relevant objectives and regulations that the school must follow.

Characteristics of a charter school

For a charter school to run smoothly, there are certain characteristics it must possess to ensure that everyone (stakeholders, teachers, parents, and students) benefits from the project.

1. Funding

Charter schools are free and accessible for students, but how do these schools get to fund their operational activities and remain consistent? They get funding either publicly or from non-governmental organizations whose interest is in the general growth of education.

They receive funds from the government based on the number of students that are present in the school at that particular time.

Other private donations like fundraisers with the help of philanthropic organizations also help to fund the school. With these funds, charter schools are well-equipped to take students to another level.

2. Unified Objectives

Another valuable characteristic of charter schools includes clear objectives that are agreed upon by sponsors, authorizers, stakeholders, students, teachers, and parents. When there is a mission and vision statement, it is easy for everyone involved to be unified.

The mission and vision guide the school to ensure that every member of the school plays their role well. With steady leadership, effective teaching, and parent inclusiveness, charter schools tend to be well organized.

3. Community Inclusiveness

To be held accountable by all stakeholders involved, the charter school has to be open to the general public.

There must be a financial report that should be made public so the community can see how money is made and spent. This will build confidence between the community and the school.

Furthermore, when investors see the school earnings at the end of each financial year due to the published report, more could be willing to give to the charter school to improve the learning welfare of both students and teachers.

4. Independence

Charter schools are independent bodies. They can create their curriculum with little or no influence from the government. Students also enroll in the school in line with the quota system and based on merit.

Teachers are also hired and fired according to the employment policy that is operated by the school. This helps the school get the best possible teaching and non-teaching personnel that are hired based on their merit and level of experience.

In general, it is free from the rules and guidelines of how a government-sponsored school should run. However, it is still accountable to the major stakeholders.

5. Student Oriented

Charter schools pay more attention to the growth and development of their students. Students get the best tutoring based on a curriculum that will make them stand out in the future.

Also, most charter schools organize training for their teaching staff to improve their productivity level in the classroom.

Teachers also use all forms of teaching methods in the teaching process to get the attention of every student and improve learning.

Doing this guarantees better academic performances by students in the school. Unlike other forms of schools, charter schools pay attention to the performances of their students.

Advantages of charter schools

1. Charter schools are independent

This is one of the major advantages charter schools have over other publicly owned schools. They are free to build a curriculum that helps them teach their students better.

Since the teachers are solely in charge of the curriculum, they can easily spot when students are lost and can create a more private learning plan to suit the slower learners.

Furthermore, parents have the chance to pick the curriculum that is suitable for their wards. For example, not all public-funded schools can cater to special children and students with disabilities.

Charter schools, on the other hand, have teachers who will always pay close attention to physically challenged children.

2. Better teacher/student ratio

Unlike other publicly sponsored schools, charter schools usually have a less number of students in the classroom. This allows the teacher to pay more attention to the development of the students under their care.

Teachers are free to take more questions from the students in their class without anyone feeling left out.

Moreover, there is a stronger connection between the teachers and the students as well as among the students themselves. Eventually, they can build a network to help themselves in the future.

3. Higher chances of getting into top colleges

With the uniqueness of the charter school curriculum, it is easier for students to get into top colleges because of their ability to be adaptable in the classroom setting.

Studies have shown that students who attend charter schools easily get into top-rated colleges.

4. Free tuition

Most parents who cannot afford to send their children to public or private schools often consider sending them to charter schools where they do not need to pay tuition fees.

The government and other non-governmental agencies finance the school and cover the students’ tuition fees.

This is a key advantage for disadvantaged families who would find it difficult and expensive to send their kids to school.

Charter schools provide opportunities for poor families to have access to quality education.

5. Promotes accountability

Accountability is necessary to win the trust of sponsors and the community at large.

To raise funds, charter schools must reach out to philanthropists and sponsors who are looking to improve the educational sector.

What encourages these sponsors to put in funds is when they see that the school is accountable for finance.

Hence charter schools ensure accountability by publishing their annual financial report publicly for people to assess.

Occasionally auditing these reports also encourages financial prudence leading to better accountability by all parties involved.

6. Improves diversity and inclusion

No one likes to feel left out. Compared to other types of schools, charter schools promote diversity.

Because of the kind of students that would be in the school, teachers would have to carry everyone along and open the minds of students to different ideas and knowledge that are not common.

Students learn to accept a new reality that might be different from theirs and this could help them in the real world when they mix with society.

Not only do they have to deal with social diversity, but the curriculum also has varieties of topics that add to the skills and knowledge of the students.

Disadvantages of charter schools

1. Charter schools are difficult to get into

The admission process is strictly making it difficult for students to get into charter schools. Students often have to wait for a long period before they get admission to study.

Most of the time, students have to attend public or private schools because they cannot get into charter schools. This can be a disadvantage for underprivileged families.

2. Low level of funds

Raising funds is one of the main challenges that charter schools face and there is a need to keep up with the operating cost of the school.

These costs may include payment of salaries, purchasing of teaching and non-teaching equipment, repairs, and other emergency costs. If teachers don’t get their pay when due, there will be a reduction in productivity and this would affect the students.

It might be difficult to manage the funds that come from the government and also get sponsorships to meet up with the deficit.

Furthermore, more problems may arise if the school uses funds inappropriately. The school might even get shut down as a result.

3. Teachers have to work more

To meet up with an ever-demanding curriculum, teachers always have to work harder than required without getting matching pay.

The conditions that teachers pass through in charter schools would discourage other qualified teachers who are seeking employment.


Are charter schools public schools?

No. Charter schools are different from public schools.

While both schools get funding from the government, charter schools run more independently compared to public schools.

Moreover, students can attend charter schools for free. However, parents sending their kids to public schools will have to pay tuition fees.

Are charter schools free?

Yes, charter schools accept students free of charge.

The federal government funds them through tax revenue and through donations from private individuals and non-governmental organizations.

Why are charter schools good?

Charter schools benefit the community because more students have access to free education.

In addition, the learning process in charter schools is more flexible than in public schools.

Teachers are free to explore a more creative way of teaching their students. Charter schools also ensure that the management is held accountable.


In this article, I have explained what charter schools are, how they get funding, and the characteristics it possesses. I have also shown you the advantages and disadvantages of charter schools.

The benefits of charter schools outweigh the cost. Charter schools can also be improved to get the best out of students and even teachers.

Both private individuals and organizations should also help to provide funding for these schools to improve the quality of learning.

Charter schools equally play a big role in ensuring that children do not stop getting quality education because of a lack of finance.

They deserve the chance to access formal learning which could turn out to be beneficial to them and society in the future.

Finally, it will be best if you check the article on what are prep schools to learn about their mode of operation.

I hope you got value. Thanks for reading.