Thursday, November 5, 2009

FAQ: What's a charter school?

Charter schools are publicly funded elementary or secondary schools that have been freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools, in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each charter school's charter.
That efficient definition, offered by the National Education Association, captures three of four key charter elements: public funding, flexibility, and accountability. An additional common expectation is that parents apply to have their children attend a charter school.

Kentucky currently does not have a charter school law. States that do have charter school laws may have an advantage in applying for federal Race to the Top funds, and creating a charter school statute may be part of the Department of Education legislative agenda in the coming session, as noted in this Herald-Leader report.

For a deeper sense of how charter schools operate, here's the definition proposed in the "New Model Law" recommended by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools:
A ‘public charter school’ means a public school that:
  • Has autonomy over decisions including, but not limited to, matters concerning finance, personnel, scheduling, curriculum and instruction;
  • Is governed by an independent governing board;
  • Is established, operating, and accountable under the terms of a charter contract between the school’s board and its authorizer;
  • Is a school to which parents choose to send their children;
  • Is a school that admits students on the basis of a lottery if more students apply for admission than can be accommodated;
  • Provides a program of education that includes one or more of the following: pre-school, pre-kindergarten, any grade or grades from kindergarten through 12th grade, and adult community, continuing, and vocational education programs;
  • Operates in pursuit of a specific set of educational objectives as defined in its charter contract; and
  • Operates under the oversight of its authorizer in accordance with its charter contract.

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!