What is a charter school?
A charter school is a public school of choice that operates under the terms of a charter, or contract, with an authorizer, such as the State Charter Schools Commission (SCSC) or a local board of education. Charter schools receive flexibility from certain state and local rules to design a unique educational program in exchange for increased student performance. In Georgia, there are two types of charter schools: state charter schools (authorized by the SCSC) and locally-approved charter schools (authorized by a local board of education). Charter schools are held accountable by their authorizer for upholding the terms of their charter contract.
Are charter schools public schools?
Yes. Charter schools are public schools. As such they receive public funding, cannot charge tuition, must have fair and open enrollment, must be secular, and are required to serve all student populations, including students with disabilities and English language learners.
What is the difference between a charter school and a traditional public school?
Two words can help distinguish charter schools from traditional public schools: flexibility and accountability. Charter schools are governed, not by a local board of education, but by an autonomous non-profit board of directors, and they receive flexibility from certain state and local rules and regulations. Charter schools use this flexibility to implement innovative or unique programs and provide educational options to parents and students that are not typically available in the traditional public schools. In exchange for this flexibility, charter schools are expected to meet academic performance targets. Charter schools that fail to meet academic expectations are subject to closure.
What is the difference between a charter school and a magnet or theme school?
A magnet or theme school is typically a school within a local school district that offers a certain instructional program. Many magnet or theme schools may have admissions criteria such as: test scores; teacher recommendations; or grades. Charter schools operate independently from the local district and are not allowed to have admissions criteria. For example, a charter school cannot require students to pass a test or have a certain grade point average to be admitted.
What is the difference between a charter school and a private school?
Charter schools are public schools of choice. Unlike private schools, charter schools receive public funding, cannot charge tuition, and are not allowed to have admissions criteria. Also unlike private schools, charter schools are subject to many of the same state and all federal regulations as traditional public schools. For example, charter schools participate in the same statewide assessments and accountability measures as traditional public schools.
Do charter schools have admissions requirements?
No, charter schools do not have admissions requirements other than residing in the school's designated attendance zone. Charter schools, as public schools, must adhere to the same open admission and enrollment standards as traditional public schools. If more families seek to enroll in a charter school than space permits, the school will hold a random lottery to determine which students are admitted.
Do charter schools serve students with special needs?
Yes. Charter schools, as public schools, are required to comply with IDEA and section 504.
How do I enroll my student in a charter school?
Visit our Find a School page to explore the state charter school options available to you. There may also be locally-approved charter schools available in your area. This information can be found through your local board of education or on the Georgia Charter Schools Association website.
To enroll in a charter school, students must reside in the school's designated attendance zone. Charter schools establish an enrollment period when families can submit applications for the school. This information can be found on the school website. If more students apply to enroll than space allows, the school will hold a randomized lottery to determine who is admitted.
What is the role of the SCSC?
The State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia (SCSC) is the state's independent charter school authorizer. The SCSC reviews and approves petitions from applicants seeking to establish charter schools. Charter school applicants can seek approval through the SCSC after being denied by a local board of education or if the school wishes to serve a broad geographic attendance zone that crosses school district boundaries. Once approved, the SCSC provides oversight to state charter school governing boards and ensures that boards are fulfilling their academic, operational and financial obligations as outlined in the school's charter contracts and the law.
What is the role of the charter school governing board?
The charter school governing board is responsible for overseeing the operations of the school and ensuring that the school fulfills its contractual and legal obligations. Georgia law provides broad autonomy to charter school boards to make decisions regarding school operations, including staffing, curriculum, student discipline and finances.
How do I understand my state charter school's performance?
The SCSC annually evaluates state charter school performance in the area of academics, operations and finance. In academics, state charter schools are expected to provide students with a better educational opportunity by academically outperforming the school's comparison district (attendance zones). Schools can outperform on any of six different measures by demonstrating that students are achieving at higher levels (content mastery) or making greater academic progress (student growth) than their peers. The operational portion determines if a school is meeting its legal obligations and the financial portion evaluates the financial health of the school. You may find state charter school performance evaluations here.
Should I contact the SCSC or the charter school governing board with my concern?
Georgia law provides broad autonomy to charter school governing boards to make decisions regarding school operations and therefore, the governing board is best equipped to quickly resolve the concerns of students and families. Families should contact the SCSC when they are concerned that a charter school governing board has violated its contractual obligations or Georgia law, or if a board is not responsive to their complaints.
How do I contact my state charter school's governing board?
State charter schools are required to include contact information for the governing board on the school's website. Additionally, governing boards hold public meetings throughout the year and most boards allow a public comment period. The board meeting schedule must be published on the school's website.