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How do charter schools differ from public, private schools?

When a parent nears that exciting yet nerve-racking time when their child is poised to make the transition from pre-school to kindergarten, they will suddenly find themselves confronted with a host of decisions. Most importantly, they will need to decide whether they want to send their child to a public, private or charter school.

While the first two choices seem straightforward to most parents, requiring maybe some additional research or on-site visits, the third might be somewhat more difficult. Indeed, the reality is that many parents, through no fault of their own, may be entirely unfamiliar with charter schools.

In light of this reality, and the fact that charter schools have recently garnered a considerable number of headlines here in Florida and across much of the nation, today's post, the first in a series, will provide some basic background information on this topic.


At its core, a charter school is essentially a public school that operates under the terms of a performance contract. This performance contract, or charter, is designed to hold the school accountable for meeting designated academic and financial goals, while simultaneously allowing them to depart from some of the regulations governing traditional public schools.


The process of forming a charter school starts with the submission of an application to a school district by an individual, group, business, municipality or other legal entity.

In the event the application is approved, the applicants must then form a governing board to negotiate the parameters of the aforementioned performance contract (i.e., charter) with the district school board, which will become the charter school's officials sponsor once an agreement is reached.

The charter must address the following key points:

  • The mission of the charter school
  • The goals and planned curriculum of the charter school
  • The student population served by the charter school
  • The methods of assessment to be used by the charter school
  • The manner in which success will be measured by the charter school

We'll continue this discussion in future posts, including eligibility for charter school enrollment.

In the meantime, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional whether you are a parent, teacher, or administrator with questions or concerns about an education law matter pertaining to charter schools.   

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