What is a Charter Public School?
Charter public schools were established in 1993 by the Legislature to provide educational choice for parents, expand educational opportunity for their children, and promote change in their districts.
In exchange for some regulatory freedoms (in school management, budgeting, mission, and academic program), charter public schools are held to high levels of accountability. They must successfully
manage school finances and operations, and they must demonstrate student achievement; if they don't, the schools can be closed.
Are charter public schools private schools?
No. They are tuition-free public schools. Charters are established by parents and community leaders who believe there are educational needs that are not being met by district schools. They operate independent of local school districts and local government and are overseen by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).
Charter public schools are managed by a public board of trustees. There are 72 charter public schools operating in Massachusetts (as of Sept. 2011).
Who can attend a charter public school?
Charter public schools are public schools open to everyone, free of charge. They cannot - and do not - select their students. If there are more students than available seats, they hold public lotteries to determine who will attend.
The first SABIS-managed charter school opened in Springfield in 1995, and its 1,574 students are admitted by lottery. There are nearly 3,000 students on the waiting list.
Statewide, there are more than 32,000 children enrolled in charters with nearly 35,500 on wait lists. That's a little more than 2% of statewide enrollment.
Do charter public schools serve “all” students?
Yes. In all charters, including in the proposed International Charter School, enrollment is determined by a random lottery. Charter public schools are open to all students and its student make-up is determined by the make-up of the applicant pool. Both SABIS schools in Massachusetts serve a diverse student body.
Statewide, 50% of students enrolled in charter public schools are students of color, compared to 23% state-wide; 46% of students in charter public schools are enrolled in the free/reduced lunch program compared with 31% state-wide.
Compared to host districts, charters serve a far higher percentage of African American and Hispanic children, an equivalent percentage of low-income students, and lower percentages of special needs students and children who are designated "Limited English Proficient" (LEP). Designating children as "special needs" or LEP depends on a subjective analysis by school administrators. Charter public schools avoid over-labeling these children and strive to educate them in regular classrooms.