How are Charter Schools different from Public Schools? 

Raising Kids In NYC - October 22, 2019

How are Charter Schools different from Public Schools? 

Charter Schools are open-to the public and funded by the state, but operate quite differently than traditional Public Schools. If you are unfamiliar with the distinction, Charter Schools, unlike traditional public schools, can develop their own unorthodox curriculums. They can experiment with innovative academic philosophies, require their students to wear uniforms, or even follow their own academic calendar.

Often, Charter Schools may choose to have longer school days or even longer school years. Some Charter Schools implement far more progressive academic approaches than the Department of Education (DOE) standard, while others enact strict disciplinary methods of teaching and punishment. 

Charter Schools operate independently of the Board of Education and its policies. Though publicly funded, they are run by private organizations and networks. To open a Charter School, you must first obtain a charter with the NYS Board of Regents, State University of New York (SUNY) or the NYC Department of Education. 

What types of Charter Schools are there in NYC?

There are various types of Charter Schools, some far more progressive than others. Community Roots, for instance is a locally-run Charter School in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. We featured this school on our list of best public schools in Brooklyn.  This school is what is defined by Inside Schools as a ‘Mom N Pop’ Charter School, meaning it is founded and operated by a small community organization. 

A music class at Community Roots (Photo by Inside Schools)

However, most Charter Schools in NYC are a part of large non-profit educational networks that operate dozens of schools throughout the city. These include: Success Academy, Democracy Prep, Harlem Village Academy among others. These schools are often ridiculed for their harsh disciplinary policies. 

Students in uniforms at a Success Academy Charter School

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What is the history of Charter Schools in NYC?

In 1998, the NYS Charter Schools Act was enacted, allowing Charter Schools to exist in the state for the first time. The first Charter School in NYC opened, a year later, in Harlem in 1999.

In the past 20 years, Charter Schools have flourished. There are now over 200 Charter Schools throughout New York City, with a total student body of 114,000. According to Inside Schools, Charter Schools account for 10% of the city’s total public school enrollment.

Parents and Kids Protesting In Support of Charter Schools in LA (Photo by Esmeralda Fabian Romero)

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Why are Charter Schools so controversial?

This week, Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren unveiled her education plan, which involves banning for-profit Charter Schools. Some, like Warren, find issue with Charter Schools. It’s true, Charter Schools have flaws. Charter Schools often have high turnover rates for teachers. Charter Schools do not honor the same Teacher’s Union regulations, meaning that some teachers may be subject to longer hours and lower pay.

Furthermore, the non-profit status of these schools has lead some private individuals and corporations to engage in tax fraud. Under the guise of improving education, over $1 Billion in Federal Funds have been wasted in the Charter School sector. Some statistics also show that they divert funding away from non-charter public schools.

What is the benefit of Charter Schools?

Nonetheless, Charter Schools have had a profound impact on NYC. Since their arrival in 1999, they have provided more opportunities for students in neighborhoods that lack good public schools. Charter Schools primarily serve economically disadvantaged students in Black and Latino communities throughout the city. These schools often fill gaps where public schools have failed. The longer school days are also good for working parents. Furthermore, students in Charter Schools frequently often out-perform their public school peers when it comes to state exams.

If they fail to meet their goals, Charter Schools can be shut down. The DOE believes that this makes Charter Schools more accountable for the success of their students.

How can my child apply for a Charter School?

Charter Schools, unlike public schools, do not follow the same policies for school-zoning, meaning that any one from any neighborhood has a chance. Charter schools also have later deadlines for admissions. Unlike the NYC DOE deadline of December, you can apply to Charter Schools until April. To apply for a Charter School check out the NYC Charter School Application here.

 

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