Last Updated on August 10, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
Public charter schools are a relatively new concept, but have improved student education in California exponentially. What are they? Are they free? Can anyone enroll?
What is a Public Charter School?
Let’s break down what “Charter School” means:
The word “charter” is a noun that means “a written statement of the principles and aims of an organization” per the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary.
“School” as we know is “a place where students go to be educated” per the Oxford.
A charter school is a public school created and bound by their charter, which is the written document which outlines the school’s purposes, goals, and essential rules. This charter document must be approved by the school district which is authorizing the charter school.
Purpose of Public Charter Schools
Charter schools are public schools authorized in under the “Charter Schools Act of 1992” which states:
The purpose outlined by the legislature for charter schools is to
[P]rovide opportunities for teachers, parents, pupils, and community members to establish and maintain schools that operate independently from the existing school district structure… to accomplish all of the following:
(a) Improve pupil learning.
(b) Increase learning opportunities for all pupils, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for pupils who are identified as academically low achieving.
(c) Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods.
(d) Create new professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the schoolsite.
(e) Provide parents and pupils with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system.
(f) Hold the [charter] schools established…accountable for meeting measurable pupil outcomes, and provide the schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems.
(g) Provide vigorous competition within the public school system to stimulate continual improvements in all public schools. [California Education Code 47601]
Who could disagree with these goals for California students?
Charter Schools Are Public Schools
Charter schools ARE public schools set up outside the traditional system, to give students a choice in education. Any student can apply to attend a California charter school, even if it is located outside their school district. Students don’t need an interdistrict or intradistrict transfer to enter.
Charter schools mean more options in education for students. They can focus on specific curriculum, such as the performing arts (drama, art, photography, etc.), the sciences, and other areas of student interest.
Charter Schools Are Under Attack
Charter schools have been very successful in California and have helped millions of students to achieve a quality education. This success has resulted in many students moving away from traditional public schools into charter schools.
The result? Less money in the coffers of public schools and the all-powerful California Teachers Union.
This has triggered organized efforts to curb charter school growth in the state. Charter schools have been left fighting for their lives in some cases.
Charter schools are not responsible for the poor education provided by traditional public schools or mismanaged funds of California school districts. If the public schools would do their jobs adequately, charter schools would not be necessary. The purpose of charter schools is to provide varied opportunities for students to learn, as the public schools in California have largely failed to educate (ranked 40/50 states in education).
Charter Schools Are Free
Attendance at a public charter school is free, as charter schools are supported by public funds. If a student wants to attend, they just need to apply, and hope there is room!
Student attorney Michelle Ball assists parents with enrollment decisions, truancy, attendance, discipline, sports and special education school issues. As an education lawyer in Sacramento California, Michelle helps students in Bodega Bay, Santa Rosa, Lincoln, Marysville, Stockton, and South San Francisco.