WHAT IS A CHARTER SCHOOL?
A charter school is an independently run public school granted greater flexibility in its operations in return for greater accountability for performance. The “charter” establishing each school is a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, students served, performance goals, and methods of assessment.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHARTER SCHOOLS AND OTHER PUBLIC SCHOOLS?
Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning that families choose them for their children. They operate with freedom from some of the regulations that are imposed upon district schools. Charter schools are accountable for the same academic results as traditional district schools, and for upholding the promises made in their charters. They must demonstrate performance in the areas of academic achievement, financial management, and organizational stability. If a charter school does not meet performance goals, it may be closed.
ARE CHARTER SCHOOLS ALL THE SAME?
No. Charter schools can vary a great deal in their design and in their results. Also, they can be run by different organizations, with some organizations operating several schools (see “What is a charter management organization?” below). FirstLine Schools is a mission-driven non-profit organization focused on helping provide great open admissions public schools in New Orleans.
WHO AUTHORIZES CHARTER SCHOOLS?
This varies from state to state, depending on the state’s charter law. In New Orleans, there are three authorizers: the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), the Recovery School District (RSD) and the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB). All FirstLine Schools are currently chartered via the OPSB.
WHO ATTENDS CHARTER SCHOOLS? WHOM DO THEY SERVE?
Nationwide, students in charter schools have similar demographic characteristics to students in the local public schools. In New Orleans, the vast majority of public schools are charter schools. Most, but not all, charter schools are open-enrollment, meaning they accept all of the same students as a traditional public school. All FirstLine Schools are open-enrollment schools, which means that we serve all New Orleans students.
HOW ARE CHARTER SCHOOLS FUNDED?
As public schools, charter schools are tuition-free. They are funded according to enrollment levels and receive public funds on a per pupil basis. Charter schools are entitled to federal categorical funding for which their students are eligible, such as Title I and Special Education monies.
WHAT IS A CHARTER MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATION?
Charter management organizations (CMOs) are non-profit organizations that operate more than one charter school. CMO’s usually provide shared services, such as shared assessments, professional development, financial management and administrative services, human resources and teacher recruitment, fundraising, and facility services. FirstLine Schools manages five charter schools, whose charters were granted by the Recovery School District. Some of our schools were ‘startup’ charters, where we brought in a new population of students, but most of our schools are ‘turnaround’ schools, where we work with an existing school to improve its operations and academic performance.
LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION ON CHARTER SCHOOLS IN LOUISIANA:
- Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools
- Cowen Institute, K-12 Education in New Orleans
- Cowen Institute: Governance Structure of Schools in New Orleans