Excellence in Knowledge, Expression, & Community

What is a charter school?

What is a Charter School?


A charter public school is a non-profit, tuition-free, independently operated public school granted greater flexibility in curriculum, staffing, and operations.

Like other public schools, charter public schools have open-enrollment policies. No tuition is charged, and no tests are given to determine eligibility. Charter schools do not discriminate on the basis of disability, race, color, gender, national origin, religion, or ancestry. 

Although public charter schools are exempt from some state and district regulations, they are held to high levels of accountability. In addition to meeting state and federal accountability requirements in Colorado, charter schools must also meet the requirements set out in their charter agreement. An authorizer may revoke a school's charter at any time if the school is not fulfilling the terms of it's charter. In addition, a charter school is subject to a rigorous review at the end of each charter term in order to determine whether or not the school's charter should be renewed.


Charter schools often use their freedom to innovate in their educational philosophy, academic programming, hiring practices, or other school policies (e.g., school calendar, use of technology, etc.). They are able to establish an academic program and policies that support the school's mission and goals. In this way, they provide meaningful choices to families looking for the best option for their children's education. By encouraging neighboring schools to compete, they tend to promote improvements in education for everyone. 

Of course, charter schools are not a magic fix. There are good and bad charter schools, just as there are good and bad district schools and good and bad private schools. Successful charters must abide by universal best practices.  They must have a sound philosophy, a clear mission, effective governance, talented leadership and staff, and a solid financial plan.

Facts about Charter schools:

  • Receive state “per-pupil revenue” (PPR) and some local mill levy dollars but do not typically receive funding for capital expenses, which must be paid for from operational funding

  • Offer seats to children based on random lottery. Charter schools do not select children

  • Offer a variety of curricula, instructional styles, and sometimes differ in their philosophy toward education. Parents choosing a charter school as an option for their children doesn’t indicate a weakness in district run schools, but a preference for a different approach and focus for their child

  • Serve students with specials needs

  • Allow parents a choice in the education of their children