Charter Schools FAQ

What is a charter school?
A charter school, or public school academy, is a public school held to all, if not more, standards than a traditional public school. A university, community college, intermediate school district, or a traditional K-12 school district authorizes a charter school. It is designed to allow innovative and accountable choices to families.

Why do we need charter schools?
Charter schools give parents and students a choice. Geographic and demographic conditions should not dictate a student’s choice of school. Also, each student learns differently and should have options to choose the best learning environment to maximize their potential.

What is the difference between traditional public schools and charter schools?
Charter schools are public schools in every sense, but they are free to be more innovative for the means of improving student achievement. In exchange for this freedom, charter schools are held to a higher standard in terms of being accountable for fulfilling their chartered mission.

When did the first charter school open in Michigan?
After the passing of legislation in 1993, the first charter school opened its doors. In 1994, 14 charter schools opened.

How many charter schools are there currently in Michigan?
There are 294 charter schools in the state, with over 350 charter school campuses across Michigan serving 150,000 students.

How many students do charter schools serve?
Currently, 10% of Michigan's student population is enrolled in a charter school.

Do charter schools employ certified teachers?
Yes. All charter schools must use state-certified teachers. Special exceptions are granted to schools that are chartered by a state university or community college that may wish to use collegiate staff to teach charter school students.

Can charter schools choose their own students?
No. Charter schools are open to all students. When the number of student applications exceeds the number of available seats, a random selection lottery is held to determine which students will be enrolled. Charter schools actually enroll a higher proportion of poor, minority students than traditional public schools.

Do charter schools offer special education?
Yes. Charter schools may not be selective in their admission process and therefore must provide special education services to any student who requires them. About 11 percent of charter school students receive special education services, compared to approximately 13 percent in traditional public schools.

What is a charter school authorizer?
An authorizer can be any public university, community college, traditional K-12 school district or intermediate school district. A charter school is essentially a government entity (a school or school district) ‘chartering’ a new government entity – a new public school district. Authorizers provide oversight to their charter school(s) and can revoke a charter at any time. They assure the schools are following all local, state and federal laws.

How are charter schools funded?
Charter schools receive per-pupil funding from the state, in the same way that traditional public schools do, except they receive an average of about $750 less per student. Charter schools must also fund their own facilities. They cannot ask voters for millages to pay for facilities, technology or anything else.