What is a Charter School?
A Contract for Education
A charter school is a public school created through
a contract between a sponsor and a person or
organization agreeing to provide educational
services for the state. It is whatever kind of public
school that the charter says it will be. Charter
school students are not charged tuition; the school
is paid by the state of Arizona on a per-pupil basis.
Arizona Pioneers Charter Movement
In 1994, the Arizona State Legislature passed one of the nation’s strongest charter school laws. At that time, only seven other states had any charter school laws. Today, most states have some form of charter school legislation, but Arizona’s is considered one of the most effective. Our state is one of three being watched most closely by government, political, populous, and media organizations of the entire nation. We are participating in an educational revolution driven by a demand for better education and more family choice.
Arizona Charter Schools: Financing and Accountability
Arizona presently leads the nation in numbers of charter schools. 25% of all schools in Arizona are charters, and 12% of all students in Arizona (133,890 students) attend charter schools. Charter entities may be public or private and non-profit or for-profit. Arizona charter schools are legally defined as public schools. They are funded on a per-pupil basis by the state. Charter schools do not have bonding authority, but may own property. They must meet all State and Federal civil rights, labor, and safety laws but are legislatively exempt from many Arizona Title 15 regulations, which apply to district schools. They are not exempt from regulatory and compliance reporting. Charter schools are monitored and must report on many areas such as annual financial audits, periodic procedural audits, charter compliance, special education compliance, parent involvement, attendance, and discipline. Sponsors can grant exemptions to some regulations.
A Look to the Future
Like any small business and unlike district schools, charter schools can fail and go out of business. It is significant that to date very few charter schools have failed. In fulfilling the dreams of their founders, charter schools have also increased student learning and client satisfaction, created jobs, and spawned entire new industries. Charter schools are bringing to the field of education many of the invigorating principles of business: competition, accountability, measurability, customer service, and market sensitivity. This educational revolution empowers individuals: the operator who risks all to turn beliefs into reality, the parent who chooses a school to match a student’s learning needs, the student who receives individualized attention, the employee who chooses a work environment attuned to his/her beliefs. Participating in the charter school movement is participating in the future of America.