Frequently Asked Questions: Charter Schools

 

What is a charter school?

A charter school is a public school with specific goals and operating procedures detailed in an agreement, or charter, between the authorizing agency – usually either a local school district board or a county board of education – and the charter operator.  

Do charter schools receive state funding?

Yes, charter schools receive state funding and should not be confused with private schools.  They may not charge tuition, are non-sectarian and open to any student, regardless of his or her place of residence.

When were charter schools established?

In 1992, California lawmakers passed the Charter Schools Act, making California the second state in the nation, behind Minnesota, to enact charter school legislation.

The law initially set a limit of 100 charter schools state-wide. That limit was eased in the years that followed. As of 2018-19, more than 1,300 charter schools and seven all-charter districts operate in California, housing more than 652,000 students, according to the California Department of Education.

While advocates have touted charter schools as a benefit to school choice, some critics have expressed concern that the rapid growth of charter schools — including many operated by charter management organizations — is diverting funding from traditional public schools.

Do charter schools have to follow the same laws as traditional public schools?

Yes and no. Because the intent of the Charter Schools Act was to expand options for parents, charter schools are exempt from many of the laws that govern school districts, except where specifically noted in California’s Education Code. The charter is the document that controls the entire school’s operations, so the contents of the charter are important and must be carefully reviewed by the approving agency.

Charter schools must, however, follow all laws protecting civil rights, student health and safety, as well as state laws regarding uniform complaint procedures and federal special education laws. In California, charter schools must also take part in the same statewide assessments as traditional public school campuses, and they are required to hire credentialed teachers for core and college preparatory subjects.

How is charter school accountability monitored?

When a charter petition is submitted for a new school, petitioners must specifically define their academic goals as well as their finances. If approved, charter schools are generally reviewed for renewal every five years by the approving agency to make sure they’re producing acceptable academic results and running in a fiscally and operationally responsible manner.

Does the Orange County Department of Education Review Charter Petitions?

Yes, only if the Orange County Board of Education approves a charter school, the oversight requirements are assigned to the Orange County superintendent of schools, Dr. Al Mijares, and the staff of the Orange County Department of Education.

Are there any charter schools in Irvine?

No. If a charter petition is received, the IUSD Board of Education will review it as outlined in the California Education Code 47605.

What is Irvine International Academy Charter School?

Irvine International Academy petitioned to locate a mandarin immersion charter school within the boundaries of the Irvine Unified School District, but would serve students from all of Orange County and neighboring counties.   Charter schools use their own curriculum and educational structure, as outlined in their charter.  After careful consideration of the proposed Irvine International Academy charter school, the Irvine Unified School District Board of Education denied the charter and petitioners' request, at the October 15, 2019 Board Meeting.  The Board adopted Resolution No.  19-20-23 Denying the Charter School Petition.