According to a recent Education Next poll, 44 percent of Americans approve of public charter schools. Despite this level of support, many people still don’t know some basic facts about how charter schools operate.
The answer to “do you have to pay to go to a charter school?” is no. Charter schools, like all public schools, are tuition-free.
However, it is important to understand why students do not have to pay to receive a high-quality education at a charter school.
As public schools, charter schools are publicly funded by local, state, and federal tax dollars similar to district—or traditional—schools. This funding ensures that charter schools are free, public, and open to all.
During my time as a Leadership for Educational Equity public policy fellow at the National Alliance, I have had the opportunity to learn about the policies that affect charter schools and how the National Alliance supports the expansion of high-quality charter schools.
One of the primary policy goals of the National Alliance is to advocate for more federal funding for the Charter Schools Program. This program provides funding for the development of new charter schools, credit enhancement services to help meet the financial cost of opening a school, and dissemination of best practices across the charter school sector.
In fact, 60 percent of charter schools would not have opened without this funding.
In my time at the National Alliance, I have learned not only how charter schools are funded, but also how incredibly hard the teachers and administrators work once their schools open.
For example, Washington Leadership Academy Public Charter School (WLA) recently took a cohort of juniors to various professional organizations in the D.C. area—including the National Alliance—to learn about their work. It was clear that the WLA students were well-prepared to engage with the National Alliance from extensive list of questions the students came up with prior to visiting. I know this reflects the hard work that the teachers, administrators, and students put into learning every single day.
Perhaps the best part of the experience and education that the students receive at their charter school is the fact that they do not have pay for any of it!
Tim Abram is a 2018-19 Leadership for Education Equity public policy fellow at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Learn more about public charter schools on our About Charter Schools page!