Charter School FAQs
Charter schools are independently-operated public schools that have the freedom to design classrooms that meet their students’ needs. All charter schools operate under a contract with a charter school authorizer – usually a nonprofit organization, government agency, or university – that holds them accountable to the high standards outlined in their “charter.”
Authorizers are the institutions that decide who can start a new charter school, set expectations and oversee school performance, and decide which schools should continue to serve students or not. Depending on state law, authorizers can be school districts, education agencies, independent boards, universities, mayors and municipalities, and not-for-profits.
A full-service charter school management organization will do everything from establishing the curriculum, to hiring teachers and principals, to handling human resources, marketing and custodial services. Other companies specialize in certain things such as human resources and/or finance.
Not every charter school has a management organization, some are entirely independently-managed, while others opt for a-la-carte services, like human resources or accounting.
Charter schools have the flexibility and autonomy to differentiate their curriculum, facilities and school focus. Some may focus on college prep, Montessori curriculum, fine arts and more. Some charter schools require uniforms, others have longer school days, and some teach their entire curriculum in two languages. The possibilities are endless, but charter schools aim to provide a range of options so that parents can choose the school that best fits their child.
Charter schools, like district public schools, are funded according to enrollment, and receive funding from the district and the state according to the number of students attending. Unlike traditional district schools, most charter schools do not receive funding to cover the cost of securing a facility.
On average, Michigan charter schools receive about $2,782, or 20 percent, less per pupil than traditional public schools.
The board members who serve Michigan’s public schools share many things in common. Whether elected or appointed, they are public officials, trustees of our children’s futures and united by the belief that a high-quality education should be accessible to all. But unlike traditional public schools, Michigan’s charter schools are organized under nonprofit school boards appointed by authorizers like Central Michigan University, the entities with the authority to approve new charter schools. We believe that this structure of governance provides a number of very important advantages.
Yes, as public schools, charters are held to the exact same state-mandated academic standards and participate in the same state testing. You can view the academic performance of any charter school, and compare results with other charters and traditional public schools by visiting the MI School Data Parent Dashboard for School Transparency.
Yes, charter schools regularly meet and exceed traditional public school performance standards, earning top rankings in annual U.S. News & World Reports.
Check out our press releases to see which charters are leading in Michigan.
Yes, in areas like Detroit and Flint, where education systems are often failing children, charter schools have drastically improved access to quality learning opportunities – and the results speak for themselves. Consider the following data from Detroit (2017).
- Just 12.3 percent of DPSCD students in grades 3-8 earned a proficient rating on the 2017 M-Step reading test, compared to 23.6 percent of charter students. The statewide average was 47.3 percent.
- Eight percent of traditional public school students in grades 3-8 were proficient in math, compared to 13.5 percent of those attending charters. The statewide average was 37.2 percent.
- When it comes to critical third-grade reading achievement, 9.8 percent of DPSCD students were proficient, compared to 21.3 percent of charter students and 46 percent of students statewide.