Charter Facts

Charter Schools 101

Charter schools are public schools, open to all students in their school districts - free of charge. They provide parents with a choice in their children’s education, and give educators the freedom to innovate in the classroom to give students the education they deserve.

Charter schools are
public schools.

  • Charter schools are open to all students in a district, with the exception of a handful of charter schools that have geographic boundaries in Chicago.
  • Charters are open to all children – they do not have special entrance requirements or exams.
  • They do not charge tuition. Charter schools are funded with public money; however, in Chicago, they are funded at a lower rate than district schools.

In Illinois, school funding
follows the child.

When a child goes to a charter school, a portion of the money that the district received to educate that student follows the student to the charter school. CPS is required to contribute the same amount of funding per charter school pupil as per district school pupil.
 

Charter schools are held accountable
for their results.

Because charter schools are given more freedom to innovate, they are also held to higher standards on student achievement. In Illinois, districts and the Illinois Charter School Commission keep a close eye on student achievement, student improvement, attendance, graduation and college attendance (at the high school level), compliance with state and federal guidelines, balanced budgets, and efficient operations. If a school does not meet the requirements outlined in their charter, the school can be closed.
 

Charter schools have
been around for over two
decades in Illinois.

In 1996, The Peoria Alternative Charter School was certified as the first charter school in Illinois and opened its doors. In 1997, the first charter schools opened in Chicago.

All children can attend a
charter school.

Charter schools do not “cherry pick” their students. Any student can attend regardless of his or her test scores, special education status or any other characteristics. If more students apply to the school than the school has available seats, then the school holds a lottery to determine which children will attend the school.

According to the most recent data for schools in Chicago, 88% of charter school students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch compared with 78% in open-enrollment district schools. 96% of students at charters are Black or Hispanic, compared to 84% at district schools. 15% of charter students are students with disabilities, compared with 14% at district schools.
 

There are a wide variety of
charter schools to meet
different student needs.

When school leaders write their charter and design their school, they can structure their curriculum and learning environments to meet the needs of their students, families, and communities. Some unique charter school models include: STEM and technology schools, “green” and agricultural schools, dual-language schools, college preparatory schools, arts schools, expeditionary learning schools, health and nutrition-focused schools, and dropout recovery schools – just to name a few!