About Public Charter Schools

Charter schools are independent public schools that exist to offer students, parents and educators choices of teaching and learning methods and environments. An emphasis is placed on innovation and accountability with improved student achievement the common goal.

Public charter schools are intended to improve our nation’s traditional public school system. There are now nearly 5,000 public charter schools in 39 states and the District of Columbia, educating more than 1.6 million public charter school students. Charter schools are public schools because, while independently operated, they are:

  • Tuition-free and open to every student who wishes to enroll.
  • Non-sectarian, and do not discriminate on any basis.
  • Publicly funded by local, state and federal tax dollars based on enrollment like other public schools.
  • Held accountable to state and federal academic standards.

North Carolina passed its charter law in 1996. The law allows only 100 charter schools to open, with a maximum of five per school district per year. Today there are there are an estimated 40,000 charter school students with another 15,000 on waiting lists.

Charters should have the flexibility to try innovative ways of improving learning with the goal of sharing what works with the broader public school system so that all students benefit.

Studies of public charter schools

Recent studies have shown that charter schools can significantly improve student achievement, close the achievement gap between urban and suburban students, increased graduation rates, and lead to the improvement of traditional public schools in areas where charter schools provide competition.

  • Black and Hispanic students enrolled in New York City charter schools do significantly better in reading and math compared to their counterparts in traditional public schools Source: Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes [CREDO] Charter School Performance in New York City, 2010
  • On average, a student who attends a charter school for all of grades kindergarten through eight in NYC closes about 86 percent of the urban-suburban achievement gap studied in math and 66 percent of the same achievement gap in English. Source: The New York City Charter Schools Evaluation Project: How New York City’s Charter Schools Affect Achievement, 2009
  • Attending a charter high school is associated with statistically significant and substantial increases in the probability of graduating and of enrolling in college for charter school students from Florida and Chicago. Source: RAND Education report: Charter Schools in Eight States, 2009
  • Florida and Chicago students who attended a charter middle school and went on to attend a charter high school were 7 to 15 percentage points more likely to graduate than students who went from the charter into a traditional public high school. Source: RAND Education report: Charter Schools in Eight States, 2009
  • Competition created by introducing charter schools into the public school sector has been shown to improve academic performance for students who remain in the traditional public schools of New York City.

Source: Manhattan Institute for Policy Research: Everyone Wins: How Charter Schools Benefit All New York City Public School Students Civic Report 60, October 2009


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