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    What Are the Pros and Cons of Charter Schools? 

    By Cece Gilmore

    Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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    Reviewed by Cari Shultz

    Cari Schultz is an Educational Review Board Advisor at Scholarships360, where she reviews content featured on the site. For over 20 years, Cari has worked in college admissions (Baldwin Wallace University, The Ohio State University, University of Kentucky) and as a college counselor (Columbus School for Girls).

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: September 28th, 2023
    What Are the Pros and Cons of Charter Schools? 

    A simple news search reveals that charter schools are a topic of heated debate. This article aims to concisely share the pros and cons of charter schools so that you are better informed. Read more in this guide as we walk you through the positives and negatives of charter schools. 

    What is a charter school? 

    A charter school is an independently-run school that is still funded publicly. All charter schools operate under a legislative contract (also known as a “charter”) with a group or organization that holds them accountable to the standards set by their charter.

    Some examples of a group that a charter school operates with would be: 

    • A government agency
    • University
    • Nonprofit organization. 

    Essentially, charter schools are public schools that operate under a charter. Each school has to reach specific educational goals in return for the charter to operate the school. Therefore, each institution is held publicly accountable to reach these educational standards.

    Disclaimer

    Before reading the pros and cons of charter schools, it is important to recognize and understand that every student/family and every charter school is different. Therefore, a pro or con listed may not be a pro or con for everyone or applicable to every charter school! Be sure to do your own research on specific charter schools to find the best match for your personal situation. 

    Pros of charter schools

    Cost (there is none!)

    One of the main pros of charter schools is that they are 100% tuition free institutions. This makes them accessible to students from all economic backgrounds. Charter schools are free to attend because they are publicly funded institutions. This means that they are fully funded by taxpayers in the community. 

    Offer innovative ways of learning

    Charter schools are privately managed and operated by their own specific charters. Therefore, they do not have to meet the same government regulations as public schools. This allows charter schools more freedom and flexibility in their curriculum.

    Every charter school has their own curriculum and learning objectives. Some institutions may focus on college prep curriculum, while others focus on following the Montessori curriculum. So, be sure to do your research on what the charter schools near you are teaching. 

    Provide alternative options for students and families

    One of the biggest pros of charter schools is that they offer additional options for students and parents to consider. It is a different type of affordable institution that children can attend as an alternative to their local public school. 

    Smaller class sizes

    The total number of students who attend individual charter schools are typically less than large local public schools located in major cities. Therefore, there is often a more intimate feel in the classroom at charter schools in comparison to public schools. Due to this closeness in the classroom, children often form stronger relationships with their peers and teachers. 

    Increased parental involvement

    Charter schools encourage parental involvement and decision making in their children’s academics. Some charter schools foster this involvement by requiring parents to attend meetings and fundraising events. . Increased parental involvement leads to greater student success and a stronger sense of community for parents. 

    Also see: Charter schools vs public schools: What to consider  and  Private vs. public K-12: What to consider

    Cons of charter schools

    Variations in quality

    With each charter school operating under a different charter, having different goals,  and teaching a different curriculum, there is typically no consistency between charter schools throughout the country. Therefore, there is a disparity in the quality of education that exists between various charter schools. Be sure to do your research on the nearby charter schools to ensure they are everything you want them to be. 

    Limited spots

    Charter schools are completely free and available to all students, which causes enrollment to fill up rather quickly. Typically, charter schools will turn to a lottery system or waitlist to admit students into their institution. This process causes frustration and makes it difficult for a student to attend the desired charter school. 

    Need to fundraise

    Charter schools are free to attend. However, charter schools do not always receive the necessary funding needed to operate. Therefore, charter schools often turn to donations from sponsors and fundraisers to ensure they are adequately funded. This means that as a parent or student, you will need to volunteer or donate to help the charter school remain open. 

    Transportation

    Charter schools do not discriminate when it comes to the students who can attend their schools. This means that students can attend without being restricted by location. However, due to this expense, charter schools typically do not provide transportation for students. Therefore, it is up to the family to figure out how to get the student to and from school every day. 

    Related: Finding scholarships for private K-12 education

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Charter schools do not need to follow the same government regulations as public schools
    • Charter schools are 100% tuition free for all accepted students
    • High demand for enrollment often results in a lottery-type system for enrollment in charter schools
    • Every charter school operates under their own unique charter which can lead to little to no consistency between charter schools within their teaching style 
    • The quality of education varies in charter schools
    • Reach out to the charter schools near you to determine if they are a good match for your needs
    Key Takeaways

    Final thoughts

    Overall, charter schools have plenty of pros and cons to get you thinking. Therefore, it is typically dependent upon your personal situation whether or not a charter school is the right choice for you or your child. Charter schools are an affordable option to look into if the local public schools are not meeting your needs and expectations. 

    The best course of action if you are curious about charter schools is to reach out to specific charter schools near you. They will be able to provide you with more information about their specific curriculum and testing outcomes to ease any concerns you may have. Whether you decide on a charter or public school, make sure that you apply for all the scholarships you qualify for!

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