Myths and Realities About Massachusetts
Charter Public Schools
(Reprinted from MA Charter School Association Publication)
MYTH: Charter public schools are private schools.
REALITY: Charter schools are public schools open to any child, free of charge; they offer public school choice to poor and working class families who cannot afford private school. Choice is a powerful tool for parents seeking educational equity and equal access to quality education for their children.
MYTH: Charter public schools accept only the "cream of the crop" and reject under performing students.
REALITY: Unlike exclusive private schools, charter public schools do not recruit and select "the best" students. When enrollment requests exceed the number of seats, charter schools hold a public lottery to determine who will attend. Because they are free and open to all, charter public schools do not engage in selective admissions policies.
MYTH: Charter public schools do not provide special education services.
REALITY: Charter public schools are under the same state and federal obligation to provide in-school special education services as other public schools.
MYTH: Charter public school enrollment does not reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.
REALITY: Overall, charter public school parents report lower income and education levels than district public school parents. Charter public school students are more racially and economically diverse than their counterparts in district public schools. Charter public schools have a higher percentage of students of color than district public schools (44%-23%). Charter public schools also have a higher percentage of students on free or reduced lunch (36%-17%).
MYTH: Charter public schools "drain money" from district public schools.
REALITY: When charter public schools are funded, there is no loss of public school money because charter schools are public schools. The total amount of spending on public education in communities with charter public schools is unchanged.
MYTH: Charter public schools receive more state money than district public schools.
REALITY: Charter public schools receive exactly what the districts spend to educate their students. A new funding formula ensures that the amount of money that charter public schools receive reflects the demographics, grade levels, and special education needs of the students who enroll.
MYTH: Charter public schools cost more.
REALITY: When you factor in both operating expenses and facility costs, charter public schools cost less than district public schools. Charter public schools are not eligible to receive state subsidies from the School Building Assistance Bureau (SBAB), which grants districts large subsidies (60% to 90% of the total cost) to finance new construction or major renovations. Just this year, charters started receiving a per pupil grant of $742, which covers a portion of our construction costs.
MYTH: The state should not be expanding any programs during tight fiscal times.
REALITY: Charter public schools require no new state funds, so this "expansion" comes without a price tag. Charter public schools receive the same amount of money that district public schools would receive if they were still educating that student. The money is just being moved from one public school to another public school.
MYTH: District public schools do not save $1 for every $1 that's transferred to charter public schools when a student enrolls in a charter public school.
REALITY: Legislation provides that district public schools are reimbursed for the money that is transferred to charter public schools: 100% the first year; 60% the second; 40% the third. This gives district schools four years to adjust their budgets for the loss of students. Districts have to constantly adjust their budgets to account for changes in enrollment, whether students leave for charters or private schools, or when families move out of town. The only time they are reimbursed for such changes is for charter school transfers.
MYTH: Charter public schools are not held accountable for performance.
REALITY: The charter application process is rigorous. Only strong, viable applications are approved. The charter public school renewal process is equally stringent. Charter public schools must reapply for certification every five years and are subject to annual inspections by the state. Charter public schools that don't succeed don't survive. The Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute ranked Massachusetts' application, performance, and oversight practices the toughest in the nation.
MYTH: Charter public schools are an unproven experiment.
REALITY: Charter public school students are outscoring their district counterparts on MCAS, and the longer students are enrolled in charter public schools, the better they do. In addition, charter public schools are held to extremely high standards; charters are renewed every five years; if they fail, they are closed by the state.
MYTH: Charter public schools are a fad.
REALITY: There is continued demand for charter public schools. There are over 20,000 students currently enrolled in charter public schools that are already operating or have been approved by the state, with over 14,000 students on charter public school waiting lists.