What is a Charter School?
Charter schools are non-sectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. Charter schools are tuition-free and students are usually accepted automatically. If there are more applicants than seats available, students are admitted after a lottery.
The "charter" establishing each school is a performance contract detailing the school's mission, program, goals, number of students and grade levels served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. The length of time for which charters are granted varies with most ranging from three to five years. At the end of the charter's term, the entity granting the charter may renew the school's contract.
Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor — usually a state or local school board — to produce positive academic results and adhere to the school's charter. Under the basic concept of the charter school, the schools exercise increased autonomy in return for accountability. They are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: the sponsor that grants them, the parents who choose them, and the public that funds them.