Many parents wonder whether their children would benefit from attending a charter school. But what exactly is a charter school? And how does it differ from public school?
Like public schools, charter schools are tuition-free, and students must pass the FCAT to advance. Unlike public schools, only a handful of charter schools receive funds from property taxes, and they get only 60–80 percent of what school districts spend on each student. Charter schools build partnerships between students, teachers, and parents to drive academic excellence as a way of compensating for the reduced funding.
Charter school teachers must be certified, and the schools are held accountable for improved student achievement and fiscal management of public funds. Independent governing boards run each charter school. These schools serve diverse student populations and must comply with the No Child Left Behind Act and with average class-size mandates.
After Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, many of the city’s schools were taken over by the Recovery School District, a Louisiana Department of Education program to improve low-performing schools using the charter model.
In the Spring of 2014, the district closed its last traditional schools. When 2014-15 school year begins this fall, the district will be the first in the nation composed entirely of charter schools. So far, the program has raised the percentage of students performing at grade level from 23 percent in 2007 to 51 percent in 2012.
A Brookings Institution survey ranked the RSD No. 1 with a grade of A for school choice policies.
According to the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools, Florida now has almost 230,000 students enrolled in 623 public charter schools in 44 of the state’s 67 school districts. That accounts for 15 percent of the student population. In fact, more new charter schools opened in Florida last year than in any other state. Fourteen new charter schools have been approved to open for the 2014–15 school year, bringing the total to 80 schools in the five-county Orlando metro area. Orange County has the most charter schools, with 35. Osceola County will add nine new charter schools to its 13 for a total of 22. Lake County will have ten charter schools, followed by Volusia County with eight and Seminole County with five charter schools.