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Charter Schools FAQ


What is a charter school?
A charter school, or public school academy, is a public school held to all, if not more, standards than a traditional public school. A university, community college, intermediate school district, or a traditional K-12 school district authorizes a charter school. It is designed to allow innovative and accountable choices to families.

Why do we need charter schools?
Charter schools give parents and students a choice. Geographic and demographic conditions should not dictate a student’s choice of school. Also, each student learns differently and should have options to choose the best learning environment to maximize their potential.

What is the difference between traditional public schools and charter schools?
Charter schools are public schools in every sense, but they are free to be more innovative for the means of improving student achievement. In exchange for this freedom, charter schools are help to a higher standard in terms of being accountable for fulfilling their chartered mission.

When did the first charter school open in Michigan?
After the passing of legislation in 1993, the first charter school opened its doors. In 1994, 14 charter schools opened.

How many charter schools are there currently in Michigan?
There are 255 charter schools in the state, which includes 19 new schools in the 2011-2012 school year.

How many students do charter schools serve?
Currently, there are more than 116,000 Michigan students enrolled in charter schools, which is about 7% of all students in the state.

Do charter schools employ certified teachers?
Yes. All charter schools must use state-certified teachers. Special exceptions are granted to schools that are chartered by a state university or community college that may wish to use collegiate staff to teach charter school students.

Can charter schools choose their own students?
No. Charter schools are open to all students. When the number of student applications exceeds the number of available seats, a random selection lottery is held to determine which students will be enrolled. Charter schools actually enroll a higher proportion of poor, minority students than traditional public schools.

Do charter schools offer special education?
Yes. Charter schools may not be selective in their admission process and therefore must provide special education services to any student who requires them. About 10 percent of charter school students receive special education services, compared to approximately 13 percent in traditional public schools.

Do charter school students have to take the MEAP?
Yes. Charter schools students must take the MEAP and all other state and federally mandated assessments. Charter schools typically outperform traditional public schools on these tests, especially in the state’s urban centers. Statewide, 2,721 schools out of 3.433 (including charters) met AYP in 2011 (79%).

Are there unions in charter schools?
Typically, there are not, although there are no laws that prohibit it. There are a few charters that have unions. Most prefer the ability to innovative and remove the red tape element when a teacher is not performing.

What is a “cap” on charter schools?
A cap is an arbitrary limit placed on the number of university-authorized charter schools. As of March 28, 2012 the cap on charter schools will be gradually eliminated. The cap will be ultimately eliminated by January 1, 2015. There is also a cap on the number of cyber charter schools that can open in Michigan (15 schools authorized by a statewide authorizer), the total number of cyber charter students enrolled at each school (10,000 after their third year in operation), and a statewide cap of roughly 34,000 students.

What is a charter school authorizer?
An authorizer can be any public university, community college, traditional K-12 school district or intermediate school district. A charter school is essentially a government entity (a school or school district) ‘chartering’ a new government entity – a new public school district. Authorizers provide oversight to their charter school(s) and can revoke a charter at any time. They assure the schools are following all local, state and federal laws.

Who are the largest authorizers?
Of the state universities, Central Michigan University charters 56 schools, followed by Grand Valley State University with 37 schools, Ferris State University with 19, Saginaw Valley State University with 17, Lake Superior State University with 10, Eastern Michigan University with 8, Oakland University with 8, and Northern Michigan University with 5. Bay Mills Community College charters 44 schools.

How are charter schools funded?
Charter schools receive per-pupil funding from the state, in the same way that traditional public schools do, except they receive an average of about $1,300 less per student. Charter schools must also fund their own facilities. They cannot ask voters for millages to pay for facilities, technology or anything else.

How do charter schools fund facilities?
Charter schools are not allowed to ask voters for bond money, as traditional public schools can do. They must provide and pay for their own facilities.


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