Charter schools are tuition-free, public schools that have the flexibility to be innovative, entrepreneurial, self-governing, and yet are held accountable for student and operational performance.
Charter schools are independent public schools with rigorous curriculum programs. Each charter school is different, thus offering parents a variety of choices so they can select the school that best fits their child's unique learning style.
“What charter schools have done is dramatically expand the choices that consumers - our citizens - get to use so that there are all kinds of different types of schools - longer school days, more intensive language study, science and technology focus…we’re giving our citizens more choice than they could ever have imagined 20 years ago.”
In exchange for operational freedom and flexibility, charter schools are subject to higher levels of accountability. Charter schools, which are tuition-free and open to all students, offer quality and choice in the public education system.
The "charter" establishing each such school is a contract detailing the school's mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. The "charter" contract is between the charter school and the entity granting the charter ("the authorizer"). In Colorado, the authorizer is generally the local school district, but in some cases it is the state via the Colorado Charter School Institute.
In Colorado, charters are granted for a period of time, generally five years. At the end of the term, the authorizer may renew the school's contract. Charter schools are accountable to their authorizer, as well as to the students and families they serve, to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. Charter schools must also follow state and federal public school laws.
Like traditional public schools, charters receive state funding based on a formula for each child enrolled in the school. This funding is called "Per-Pupil Operating Revenue," or "PPR".