Top Five Myths About Charter Public Schools

We’d like to believe that everyone working in education can get along and do what’s best for kids. At a minimum, adults should be able to put aside their differences and agree on the same set of facts.

Unfortunately, certain organizations have a habit of spreading misinformation about charter public schools to create doubts about the work happening in our classrooms. We want to make sure that when you hear one of these falsehoods, you have the information you need to respond quickly and accurately. Here are the top five myths about Chicago’s charter public schools partnered with the facts to correct that misinformation:


Myth # 1: Charter schools are not public schools.

Fact: Charter schools ARE, by definition, public schools. Charters are open to ALL children – they do NOT have special entrance requirements or exams. They do NOT charge tuition. Instead of being managed by the CPS central office, most charter public schools are managed by a non-profit partner.


Myth # 2: Charter schools take funding away from public schools.

Fact: Chicago’s charter public schools do NOT take money from district schools, because money is assigned to students, not schools. Public education funding simply follows the student.


Myth # 3: Charter schools “cherry-pick” their students based on academics and behavior.

Fact: 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 random lottery to determine which children will attend the school. The population of kids in charter schools mirrors the population of students in the district. 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 CPS schools. 96% of students at charters are Black or Latinx, compared to 84% at CPS-run schools. 15% of charter students are students with special needs, compared with 14% at CPS-run schools.


Myth # 4: Charter schools are not held accountable.

Fact: Because charter schools are given more freedom to innovate, they are also held to higher standards on student achievement. In Illinois, districts 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 charter public school does not meet the requirements outlined in its charter, it can be closed.


Myth # 5: Charter schools are “for-profit” schools.

Fact: Charter schools in the state of Illinois must be registered at 501c3, non-profit organizations. In rare cases, the organizations that manage these schools may be, in certain circumstances, for-profit, but the schools themselves are, by law, non-profit.


For even more information on Chicago’s charter public schools, check out the “Facts” page on our website.