Advocates & Supporters
Advocates & Supporters
Contact Your State Representative Now
charter schools need your support
Advocacy is in our blood. Charter schools began with an idea brought forth by education advocates. Parents, educators, and community members banded together with lawmakers to create a new kind of public school that offered different options for students. Today, our movement stays alive and thrives because of the work of advocates. The National Alliance is proud to support nationwide charter advocacy efforts. By staying informed on charter schools, advocating for all public schools in your community, voting in local and national elections, and donating towards the cause, you can do your part to ensure success for your child and children across the nation. We are in the fight for students and families together.
Charter Schools 101
WHAT ARE CHARTER SCHOOLS?
Charter schools are public schools that allow families to choose an educational option that best fits the needs of their child. Never a cost to attend, they are open to all students regardless of their school zoning. Students are centered in their own learning and parents are there every step of the way.
WHERE ARE CHARTER SCHOOLS?
Charter schools are in 44 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. They are found within the geographic confines of 13.3% of local school districts nationwide and are located predominantly in urban areas. Use our helpful “Find A Charter School Map'' to locate a charter near your home.
WHY CHOOSE CHARTER SCHOOLS?
Charter schools create unique, challenging learning environments and must meet high standards in order to continue serving students. 74% of parents would consider sending their child to a public charter school if one were available in their area.
COMMON CHARTER SCHOOL FAQ
How Many Charter Schools & Students Are There?
Public charter schools currently serve 3.7 million students in roughly 7,800 schools and campuses. In the 2020-21 school year, charter schools enrolled 7.5% of all public school students in America. Since the 2005-06 school year, the number of charter schools and campuses has more than doubled, while charter school enrollment has more than tripled. Learn more about charter schools in your state here.
Who Attends Charter Schools?
According to the most recently available data (2020-21 school year), nearly 70% of charter school students are students of color, compared to 53% of district school students.
Black and Hispanic students made up 60% of the charter school population during the 2019-20 school year.
Charter schools consistently served a higher proportion of students who receive free and reduced-price lunch from 2005 to 2021.
For state-by-state breakdowns of district and charter school demographics in the most recent available school year, please see the National Alliance’s data dashboard.
How Are Charter Schools Financed?
Charter schools are funded by public dollars, the same as any other public school; however, they generally receive fewer dollars per pupil than district schools. Though there are year-to-year fluctuations, the average charter school receives 80 cents for every dollar the average district school receives.
In the most recent year of available data (2018-19 school year), the average charter school received approximately $3,064 less per student than the average district school. Per-pupil funding in charter schools is less than per-pupil funding in 25 of the 27 states for which we have data. Learn more at data.publiccharters.org.
Who Manages Charter Schools?
Most charter schools (65%) are freestanding, meaning the school is self- managed. The remaining 35% of charter schools contract with external organizations for management-related services such as staffing, curriculum, services for students with disabilities, facilities, and back-office support. Management structures and the relationships these external partners have with their schools vary considerably. In some cases, the management organizations provide limited services; in other cases, they may provide nearly all management-related services and directly hire educational staff.
The two types of management organizations are nonprofit charter management organizations (CMOs) and education management organizations (EMOs). CMOs account for 26% of charter schools nationwide, while EMOs manage 9% of charter schools. Learn more at data.publiccharters.org.
Who Authorizes Charter Schools?
Charter schools are allowed to operate by “authorizers.” Approximately 48% of charter schools are authorized by school districts (local educational agencies or LEAs). Lawmakers give authorizers the authority to approve, oversee, and renew charter schools. Authorizers are typically public agencies, such as local school districts and state departments of education. In some states, however, other governmental agencies (like a city or mayor’s office) might fulfill this role. Colleges and universities, independent charter boards (ICBs), and/or non-profit organizations might be given authorizing ability as well.
Authorizers decide whether or not a school may open, what standards must be met for it to remain open, and have the power to determine if a school must close. Charter schools must demonstrate success in order to retain and renew their charter, and authorizers hold these schools to the same (or often higher) accountability standards as their district-run peers. The National Alliance’s model law recommends multiple authorizers in every state; however, to date, 14 states only offer one authorizing option, and eight only allow LEAs to authorize charter schools. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers defines which types of authorizers are allowed and operating in each state in their helpful resource Authorizer Types Across the Country.
How Do I Start a Charter School?
Charter schools can be started by any interested party, including parents, community members, and teachers. It is common to see charter schools led by former teachers who wanted to take the lessons they learned in the classroom and scale them to an entire school community. It is helpful to first identify a unique need in the community that the charter school would serve and connect with a local charter school authorizer. You can learn more about the charter school authorizers in your state on the National Association of Charter School Authorizers website.
Facts & Figures
In a recent report, Never Going Back: An Analysis of Parent Sentiment on Education, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools examined results from a survey of more than 5,000 parents conducted by The Harris Poll in May 2022. It was found that parents overwhelmingly want the freedom to choose the best education option for their children. This rings true across all races, political ideologies, and geographies. Charter schools throughout the nation have the ability to give families the freedom to choose a public school that best fits the needs of their child.
In order for parents and students to receive the freedom they are looking for, our voices need to be heard.
of parents agree they want more public charter school offerings in their area because they exhibited better safety for their children.
of parents agree that they support expanding the number of slots in existing public charter schools in their area.
of parents would consider sending their child to a public charter school if one were available in their area.
of parents agree that charter schools should be available to families who would choose them.
Charter School News