What Is a Charter School?

Charter schools are non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations that have a contract or charter to provide the same educational services to students as district public schools.

Charter schools are nonsectarian public schools that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools.

Charter schools must hire certified teachers and students must take all Florida statewide assessments, just like traditional district schools.

Florida has a vibrant and diverse charter school community. In the 2022-23 school year, 723 public charter schools serving 382,367 students in K-12 operated in 47 Florida counties. Florida has more students attending public charter schools than all but two other states in the U.S.

The numbers make it clear that Florida families of every economic, social and ethnic group are happy with charter schools. Charter schools are essentially a parent-controlled educational option, unlike traditional public schools. Without satisfied parents to enroll their children, a charter school can’t survive

Myths Versus the Truth about Charter Schools

MYTH: Charter schools are private schools.

TRUTH: Charter schools are NOT private schools. They are tuition-free public schools that are part of the state’s public education system. They operate with contracts (charters) issued by the local public school district, or other entity, that serves as their sponsors. Charter schools receive the same per pupil funding as district public schools, minus an administrative fee paid to the school district sponsors.

MYTH: Charter schools are for profit entities run by big corporations.

TRUTH: By law, Florida charter schools must be organized as nonprofit organizations governed by volunteer community-based boards of directors. About 20 percent of the charter schools in Florida contract with charter management companies for back-office services but they still operate as nonprofits under the governance of a volunteer board of directors.

MYTH: Charter schools have little or no oversight.

TRUTH: This is completely false. Charter schools are closely monitored by their district sponsors and the state. They are required to file several reports a year detailing their financial and operational status. Charter school students are required to take the same state assessments as students in traditional public schools. Charter schools are evaluated and assigned a school grade using the same standards and criteria as traditional public schools.

If a charter school receives two consecutive school grades of “F,” the district sponsor has the authority to close the school. No traditional public school operated by a Florida school district has ever been closed for poor performance. (Since 1997, 320 charter schools have been closed.)

MYTH: Charter schools siphon money from school districts.

TRUTH: Charter schools serve the same public school students who would have otherwise been enrolled in traditional public schools. We believe that educational funding should be used for the benefit of students, whether they attend a district school or a charter school. In fact, charter schools actually serve public school students at a lower cost per student than traditional public schools.

MYTH: Charter schools cherry pick only the best students.

TRUTH: Parents are the ones who choose charter schools for their children, not the other way around. The doors of charter schools are open to everyone, pending space limitations. To help avoid over-enrollment, charter schools utilize a lottery system for the fairest selection process.