Charter school FAQ: General

February 5, 2018 ACSA Writer

From the California Charter School Association, an ACSA Partner

Are charter schools public schools?

Charters schools are public schools. They are non-sectarian, tuition-free and open to any student who wishes to attend. Charter schools allow parents, teachers and the community to transform our public school system. Choice is a powerful tool for parents seeking access to quality education for their children.

Are charter schools unionized?

Charter schools, like all public schools are subject to the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA), thus are subject to the state's collective bargaining laws. The decision to unionize is made at the local level involving schools and their employees on a case by case basis. For those charter schools that have collective bargaining units, some adapt the agreement of the local authorizer, while others negotiate separate agreements with employee groups. As of 2015, CCSA estimates that 30% or so of charter schools in California have some form of collective bargaining agreement or representation.

Are charter schools run by for-profit corporations?

The vast majority of charter schools are operated by non-profit public benefit corporations. Many others are unincorporated but governed by their school districts. To CCSA's knowledge, for-profit charter schools represent less than 1% of charter schools in California. Out of almost 1,200 charter schools in the state, there are only six (6) charter schools that are organized as limited liability corporations. Regardless of how they are structured, they are subject to the laws governing all charter schools. Charters schools are public schools that must be non-sectarian, tuition-free and open to any student who wishes to attend. Their fiscal operations and compliance are overseen by their public entity authorizer.

Are charter schools sustainable?

Families of the hundreds of thousands of students in California who attend charter schools would not call charters a fad. The evidence argues that the public has never been more supportive of charter schools based on growth in charter school enrollment, waiting list numbers, and polling data. This growth in support has occurred during a period when charter schools have been held more accountable than traditional public schools and have strengthened their performance, especially with historically underserved students.

Charter schools are an important part of the state's public school system, providing a space for innovation, educational opportunity in low-income communities and unique curriculum options. Charter schools have been reinventing public education in California for nearly 25 years.

Why isn't our local charter school located in a traditional school building?

While school districts are required to provide adequate and equivalent facilities to eligible charter schools under state law, districts vary in their compliance with this law. Many charter schools secure their own facilities, using public and private financing, or donations. In some cases, the charter school may build a full school campus from the ground up; or, they may rent available space in churches, community centers or commercial buildings. Many charter schools choose to operate in a nontraditional facility because it may better serve the requirements of a unique program model.

Are parents required to volunteer?

No. While parental involvement is a critical factor in student success, a charter school may not require parental involvement as a condition of enrollment. No student may be punished or lose their place at a school based on a parent's volunteer hours. It is not legal nor appropriate for a student to be excluded from a charter school or a school activity because a parent did not volunteer or make a financial contribution to their school.

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