Just the Facts on School Choice: Understanding School Choice Programs, Part 1

While the age of the internet provides us with access to more information than ever previously imagined, the internet and, as we all know, some organizations are disseminating misinformation. The sheer volume of information and the task of discerning real facts from misinformation can be overwhelming for parents who already are busy with children, work, their children’s school and outside activities, and other family demands. Clarity on the issue of school choice will enable parents to understand the pros and cons, as well as intricacies associated with school choice.

The blog post will define school choice and the options available under school choice programs. There is no partisanship here, just the facts. Sources for information contained in this blog are found at the website for the National Conference of State Legislatures: http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/interactive-guide-to-school-choice.aspx#/

School choice describes programs that enable parents of K-12 students to use public funds to send their children to non-traditional public schools, such as charter or magnet schools, or to private schools, which are either non-denominational or religious. Part 1 will describe the charter and magnet school options under school choice programs.

Charter schools are created by state law and are publicly funded schools. As such, they do not charge tuition. The student body, however, is not limited by geographic boundaries. Charter schools are not operated by the public school system. Rather, charter schools are privately managed with an entity that has a contract with a charter authorizer.

The charter authorizer is an entity that reviews applications for charter schools, negotiates contracts with the charter school, sets benchmarks and oversees operations of the charter school, and decides whether to renew the contract or close the charter school at the end of the contract period.

While the level of autonomy of the charter school varies among states, charter schools have more control over decisions related to budgets, staffing, and operations, and they are exempt from some requirements that are imposed on traditional public schools. State laws dictate the level of autonomy given to charter schools across the nation.

As of November 2016, 43 states and the District of Columbia allow charter schools to operate.

Magnet Schools are operated by public school districts. The students are not restricted by geographic boundaries. While many magnet schools use a lottery system to determine enrollment, some magnet schools impose admission requirements. Most magnet schools incorporate pervasive themes into their programs such STEM or programs for gifted students. As of December 2017, 31 states allowed school districts to operate magnet schools.

Part 2 will discuss private school choices and the funding mechanisms at issue for the private school option.






2 thoughts on “Just the Facts on School Choice: Understanding School Choice Programs, Part 1”

  1. If charter schools are created by the individual states and are publicly funded, what is the source of that funding?
    I understand that magnet schools are part of the public school system, are they funded through our taxes to our school district? Or is it a separate tax?
    This has always been a confusing issue for me.

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