Charter Schools 101: What Is a Charter School?

It’s hard to believe that after nearly 30 years charter schools are still a mystery in some parts of the United States. But I still get the question: What is a charter school?
Charter schools are public schools, but instead of being governed by a local school board, they are governed by a document—their charter—that lays out how the school will operate and the metrics by which its performance will be judged. The charter is granted to the group of individuals who seek to open and run the school, and it has an expiration date of three to five years, at which point it needs to be renewed or the school is closed. The charter is awarded by an authorizer, or sponsor, who is responsible for making sure that the school stays on track, both academically and financially, and who makes the renewal or closure recommendation.

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