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. In New Mexico, over 14,000 students attend one of 82 charter schools across the state. 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 under-served students than there are free, high-quality seats.
Coral Community Charter School is a tuition-free public school established by a contract with our state authorizer which is the Public Education Commission, to provide a choice in public education for parents, students and educators. Coral Community Charter is independently designed and operated and committed to improving the academic achievement of every student, regardless of personal circumstances.
Read the Coral Community Charter.
How are public charter schools different?
Public Charter Schools are independent public schools that are free to be more innovative and are held accountable for improved student achievement. They foster a partnership between parents, teachers and students to create an environment in which parents can be more involved, teachers are given the freedom to innovate and students are provided the structure and individualized attention they need to learn.
A More Structured Learning Environment
Charter schools are mission-focused schools. At their best, charter schools provide a more structured learning environment, greater student discipline and increased parental involvement.
Improved Student Achievement
Charter schools are granted certain waivers from state laws and public school codes. In exchange for more autonomy, they are held more accountable for improving student achievement.
School leaders are permitted more flexibility when managing their school, allowing them to respond to parents and students needs. Charter schools hire and fire their own personnel, manage their own budgets and report to their own board of directors.
High quality teachers are rewarded for their excellent service. Teachers in charter schools must be certified by the state and meet federal requirements for highly qualified status.
Charter schools give parents public school options when it comes to where to send their child to school. Any child may attend a public charter school—there are no tuition or entrance requirements. Enrollment is generally done on a lottery basis
One of the advantages to sending your child to a charter school is the greater role parents may play in their child’s school. You can participate in its governance, its teaching philosophy -- even its curriculum. Consider joining your school’s governance council and taking a direct hand in its actions. The 1999 Charter School Act strongly encourages parental involvement in every aspect of charter school operations. Parental and public involvement is necessary for any public school to succeed; for charter schools that need is even greater. Parents can help by participating in your school’s fundraising efforts by joining your school’s PTA or analogous organization. If your school has one, consider joining your school’s non-profit foundation, which generally works toward supplementing the charter schools’ operational budget or helps build school facilities. Non-profits organizations associated with a charter school work to ensure charter school students have access to the same opportunities enjoyed by other students in traditional public schools.
Charter Schools generally are smaller in size than conventional public schools. They endorse a specific academic program that is unique to the school. They are managed by their own governance council and enjoy site-based governance. In exchange for this greater freedom, charter schools agree to operate with less funding, so they receive even less money per pupil than other public schools in New Mexico. That is, charter schools receive no money for capital outlay, or public school building and maintenance. That means they must take money out of their operational funds to pay for a lease, rent and facility maintenance. Thus in many ways charter schools require an even greater level of parental involvement and indeed, the spirit of the 1999 Charter School Act strongly encourages it!
Myth #1: Charter schools are private schools funded with public dollars.
Fact: Charter schools are authorized by the state Department of Education and follow the same laws as traditional schools, including assessment and testing, special education, health and safety, and due process for expulsion and tenure.
Fact: Charter schools do not charge a fee or tuition.
Fact: Any child may enroll in a charter school. If there are more students than spaces available, the charter school must select students using a lottery process.
Myth #2: Charter schools do not represent the demographics of their districts.
Fact: Charter schools are not magnet or selective enrollment schools and cannot pick who opts to attend.
Fact: In some communities, there is a mis-perception that charters do not serve special education students, so it is possible that fewer parents of special education students explore charter school options.
Myth #3: Charter schools simply expel students they don’t want.
Fact: Both traditional district schools and charter schools can expel students. Charter school students have the same rights to due process as traditional public school students, including the right to a hearing.
Myth #4: Charter schools aren’t accountable to the public.
Fact: Charter schools are required to undergo charter renewal after their first five years and at least every five years thereafter. During the renewal process, the school must demonstrate its effectiveness and value to their authorizor, as well as local school districts and parents. No other type of public school has this rigorous review.
Fact: Charter schools are accountable for providing an excellent education that fulfills the school’s mission; the school can be closed down if it does not fulfill its educational promises or function in an economically responsible way.
Fact: Each school is held financially accountable. Schools are required to submit quarterly reports to the Dept. of Education.
Fact: Because they are schools of choice, charter schools are accountable to the parents and students who attend their school. If parents are not happy with the school they can choose to remove the child from the school.
Myth #5: Charter schools take money from school districts.
Fact: The funds raised through state and local taxpayers for education are dedicated to children, not districts.
Fact: Charter schools are the only public schools that receive minimal public funding for facilities. They must pay for their buildings from their operating budgets, taking dollars away from students.
Myth #6: Local communities don’t have a say in whether a charter school opens in their district.
Fact: Charter schools reject the notion of one-size-fits-all when it comes to education; rather, they are designed to fill the needs as determined by members of the community.
Fact: If enough people in the community decide they want a charter school, then the law gives them an opportunity to start a public school as long as they can prove a need.
Fact: Based on waiting list numbers throughout the state, there is a demand for the kind of innovative education programs that charter schools offer.
Myth #7: Schools with a unique academic focus, so-called “boutique schools,” have no place in public education.
Fact: Charter schools are designed to give teachers the freedom to innovate, try new ways to improve student achievement, and develop successful new teaching models that work for all students in all communities. By doing so, they can raise the bar even higher in districts where the bar is already set high.
Fact: Now, more than ever, the children of today will have to compete in an interconnected world where having language skills and a deep appreciation of world cultures will be in high demand.