Charter schools are public schools.
Tennessee’s charter school law states that public charter schools are part of the state public education system and receive public funding through the Basic Education Program. Charter schools are opened after reaching an agreement with the local school district. Test scores and performance results from charter school students count toward the results of the school district they are a part of.
Charter schools meet a need in Tennessee.
Parents and students across Tennessee are met with a range of quality in public school options. Many find only low-performing schools that do not meet the needs of students. Charter schools in Tennessee have proven that they can provide quality educations for any student. In fact, a 2013 study by the CREDO Foundation found that charter school students in Tennessee gained the equivalent of 86 additional days of learning in reading and 72 additional days of learning in mathematics per year.
Charter schools are able to improve learning for all students and help close the achievement gap by encouraging the use of innovative teaching methods, providing greater decision making authority to schools and teachers in exchange for greater responsibility and student performance, creating new professional opportunities for teachers, and affording parents meaningful, substantial opportunities to participate in the education of their children.
Charter schools are open to any and all students.
Tennessee charter schools are not allowed to recruit students based on ability or performance, nor are they allowed to turn away students for any reason. Like any other public schools, charter schools provide learning opportunities for students of all abilities, and achieve strong results with their full student populations, among them special needs, gifted, and English Language Learners. Until 2011, Tennessee’s charter school law limited charter schools to serving at-risk students, and the large majority of students entering charter schools continue to come from this population. On average, charter school students enter these schools behind grade level in many or all subjects.
Charter schools, as public schools, are funded through the Basic Education Program.
Charter schools do not charge tuition. They are free for students in their school districts to attend.
Public school students are each allotted an amount of funding through the Basic Education Program. When these students go to a public charter school, this funding follows each student to their new school. Charter schools demonstrate efficiency in utilizing these funds as, in addition to standard costs of operating a school, charter schools in Tennessee are not granted facilities or funding for facilities as traditional public schools are, and spend an average of 20 percent of their budgets on facilities. When a student leaves a traditional public school, the funds they take with them do also leave that school, but through budgeting with a long-term outlook, school systems can focus on funding quality educations for all students as opposed to funding long-standing infrastructures.
Charter schools, in function, are different than traditional public schools.
Charter schools are characterized by high expectations and thus strong student motivation, as well as frequent and quality teacher development, and frequent and impactful parent communication and parent support. Charter schools are also characterized by innovations such as extended school days and school years and unique curriculums.
Charter schools were created with the vision that every child should have access to a quality education. As such, they are designed to focus on the needs of students, not adults. Charter schools are evaluated on how well they meet the student achievement goals established by their charter contract. Charter schools must also demonstrate that they can meet rigorous fiscal and managerial standards. If a charter school cannot perform up to established standards, it can be closed by the charter authorizer. Tennessee’s charter schools are proving that when the focus is truly on the students and programs are designed to help them succeed, no matter what, students and their families win.
Charter schools give families an opportunity to choose the school that best suits their child’s educational well-being. Moreover, teachers, staff, and the principal have an opportunity to create and work at schools where they have the power to directly shape the learning environment and atmosphere that best serves the unique needs of their student population.
While charter schools must adhere to many of the laws and regulations that govern traditional district public schools, they are freed from the bureaucracy that often diverts a school’s energy and resources away from the mission of the school. As a result, charter school leaders can focus all of their efforts on settling and reaching high academic standards for their students.
Charter schools provide strong, safe communities where parents and students can trust that a safe environment opens the door for a focus on learning.
Charter schools are able to seek out the most efficient transportation plan for students.
Charter schools are required to notify parents about transportation provisions. If charter schools choose to provide students transportation through the local education agency, an agreement shall be made with the local education agency to do so. If charter schools identify a more cost effective means of transportation outside of the local education agency, the charter school receives funding that would have been spent with the local education agency to put towards that method. If the charter school does not provide transportation, they do not receive funds from the local education agency that would have gone towards transporting their students.
Teachers at charter schools must be certified under the same qualifications as traditional public school teachers.
Teachers at charter schools must meet the qualifications of T.C.A. § 49-5-part 1 (regarding personnel) and must be licensed to teach in the public school system in compliance with the rules and regulations of the state board of education.
Teachers are not assigned to charter schools. Because choice is a founding principle for charter schools, school leaders are able to recruit and hire their own staffs, and teachers are able to decide if they want to work in a charter school.
Charter schools are not subject to school zones within a district, and are open to any student within the school district.
The Tennessee charter school law allows for any student within the jurisdiction of the local education agency (the authorizer of the charter school) to attend a charter school. Students who live outside of the school district overseen by the charter school’s authorizer may be eligible to attend the school in accordance with the authorizing district’s out-of-district enrollment policy.
If a charter school has more applicants than enrollment capacity allows it to accept, preference must be given to applicants in the following order:
- Pupils who attended a public school that converted to a charter school in the previous school year.
- Pupils who attended public schools within the school district in which the charter school is located, if those pupils would otherwise be included in the area in which the charter school will focus.
- Children residing in the school district but not enrolled in charter schools.
- Children who live outside of the school district but whose needs are included in the area in which the charter school will focus.
- Charter schools offer a range of extracurricular and enrichment activities.
The extracurricular and enrichment activities available at charter schools will be unique depending on the school. Some charter schools offer competitive sports teams such as basketball, track, cross country, or lacrosse. Many schools offer programs such as debate teams, choirs, step teams, model United Nations, and drama clubs.