Just What IS A Charter School, Anyway?

Just What IS A Charter School, Anyway?
Posted on 03/01/2017
Posted: March 1, 2017 | 6:18 AM EST
Claudio Sanchez
www.npr.org

We're all familiar with the term "hidden in plain sight." Well, there may be no better way to describe the nation's 6,900 charter schools.

These publicly-funded, privately-run schools have been around since the first one opened in St. Paul, Minn., in 1992. Today, they enroll about 3.1 million students in 43 states, so you'd think Americans should know quite a bit about them by now. But you'd be wrong.

"Most Americans misunderstand charter schools," was the finding of the 2014 PDK/Gallup poll on public attitudes toward education. The survey found broad support for charters, but also revealed that 48 percent of Americans didn't know charter schools were public. Fifty-seven percent thought they charged tuition. And nearly half thought charters were allowed to teach religion.

Now that the Trump administration has made school choice a cornerstone of its education policy, we thought it would be worth exploring how charter schools work, who runs them, how they're funded and whether they work better than the traditional public schools they're often competing against.

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