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What are Charter Schools

Charter schools are free, open enrollment public schools founded by parents, teachers and civic leaders.  In exchange for meeting student achievement and fiscal goals as specified in each school’s contract, charter schools have more autonomy and flexibility than traditional district schools.  They give social entrepreneurs an opportunity to create new public schools without being subject to many state and local laws and district regulations, provided that they are accountable for results.

The charter school movement began in 1988 when American Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker called for the reform of public education by establishing charter schools.  The first charter school opened in Minnesota in 1991.  By 2008, 40 states and the District of Columbia had charter laws, and more than 4,000 charter schools were up and running across the country, serving over one million students, which represents about three percent of the U.S. student population.  The number of charter schools continues to grow, and some of the most successful charter enterprises are expanding into networks to serve more students.

Despite this progress, there is still a need to support the further growth of charter schools.  High-quality charter schools have the potential to provide examples to traditional district schools and to act as a lever for change, but they are not yet serving enough students to realize this potential.  In addition, there are still many more underserved students than there are free, high-quality seats.

-Charter School Growth Fund