About Charter Schools

Free, Public, Open to All

Charter schools are free, public schools that operate independently from traditional school districts. Like district schools, charter schools are publicly funded, but operate independently. A charter school’s independence comes with increased accountability. Any charter not fulfilling their educational mission runs the risk of being closed by their respective authorizer.

New York’s two charter school authorizers— the New York Board of Regents and SUNY Charter Schools Institute— manage and approve the “charters” under which these schools operate.

This model gives educators more freedom in creating specialized curricula, thus allowing students and families more flexibility in choosing an education that is right for them.

The children of New York deserve a learning experience as unique and diverse as they are. 

That’s why 150,000 students are enrolled in free, public charter schools across the state that encourage a specially-designed education.

Charter School FAQ

What are charter schools and what makes them unique?

Charter schools are public schools that offer personalized learning experiences for students, no matter their needs, circumstances, and learning styles. Charter schools offer freedom and flexibility for families in choosing a type of education of their children and schools have more flexibility to innovate and implement unique programs for students.

Are charter schools free to attend?

Charter schools, as public schools, are free to attend.

How are charter schools funded?

Charters schools are primarily funded through the state of New York, and may also receive funding from federal or foundational grants. Charter schools typically receive less public funding than nearby traditional district schools.

How does a student enroll in a charter school?

Charter schools have an open admissions process during their enrollment period, typically in the early spring. According to the terms of their charter agreement, charter schools have a specified number of seats available for each grade level. If there are more applications than seats available, charter schools will conduct a randomized public lottery. Once a student is chosen through the lottery, they cannot be turned down for any reason.

Who can attend a charter school?

Charter schools are open to all students, no matter their ZIP code. When there are more applicants than seats available, charter schools must hold a random public lottery to admit students. Charter schools are held accountable for meeting enrollment and retention targets for disadvantaged groups of students.

How is the performance of a charter school evaluated?

Charters are initially allotted a term of 5 years by one of the two statewide charter school authorizers — the SUNY Board of Trustees or the New York State Board of Regents. As a part of this process, the school creates a charter, or plan, that includes standards for test performance, graduation rates (if applicable) and operational requirements to which it is held accountable. A school’s authorizer performs an annual audit which can include written reports and site visits to determine if the school is meeting the standards set forth in its charter. When it is up for renewal, a school that is deemed to have successfully met these requirements are allowed to continue operating for up to 5 more years at a time. Schools that have not met their requirements may receive additional conditions to meet to continue operating, given shorter renewal term limits, or may even be closed.

Are charter school teachers required to be certified?

In New York, teachers in a given charter school are required to have standard teaching certifications, with the exception of up to 30% or 5 teachers (whichever is less), who may possess other qualifying credentials or requisite experience.

How do charter school students perform relative to other students?

Charter school students are often outpacing and improving faster than their traditional public school peers. More than 80% of public charter school students in New York are outpacing their traditional public school peers in year over year academic improvement in math and English Language Arts.