Charter Schools

Providing High-Quality Public School Options for Students

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools open to all students and held to state academic and financial standards. However, unlike traditional public schools, charter schools are run independent of school districts and operate under a performance contract with an authorizer (a district, the state or another approved government or nonprofit entity). In exchange for more operational autonomy, charter schools are held accountable for student success.


Each charter school is unique. The majority of charter schools are stand-alone schools that were started by parents and community organizers to address local and specific problems. These public schools can have a specific focus—such as STEM education, the arts or language immersion. Charter schools can also have a unique teaching style—such as project-based learning, classical education or blended learning.

Public charter schools offer high-quality public-school alternatives to meet the unique needs of individual students, families and communities.

Charter schools allow parents to take a more active role in their child’s education by empowering families with options in public education.


Learn more about Charter School Policy Solutions.

“Public charter schools are as diverse as the families and children who choose to attend them. I can also tell you Tindley Summit is more than a place for our young scholars to prepare for future success—it is an incubator for hope in Dubarry and for everyone in our community.”

David McGuire

Principal, Tindley Summit Academy, IN

“What do parents want for their children? Families want their children to have real opportunities. Policymakers can support equitable access to those opportunities by championing the ability to choose one or more schools in one or more settings served by one or more providers. It’s the fair thing to do.”

Sam Duell

Policy Director of Charter Schools, ExcelinEd

Real Results

3.3 Million

Students attending charter schools in the U.S.

SOURCE: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Charter schools in the U.S.

SOURCE: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Charter schools in the U.S. News’s list of top 100 best public high schools.

SOURCE: U.S. News & World Report
2 Million

Students whose parents would enroll them in a charter school today if they could.

SOURCE: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Meet the Expert

Policy Solutions

Charter Facility Index

Lack of access to affordable facilities is one of the most critical issues facing charter schools across the country. ExcelinEd’s Charter Facility Index allows states to determine how well existing policies are meeting charter school facility needs. This tool and its accompanying resources can help states identify how to better address current and future needs of charter school students and families.

Policy Toolkit

Explore these policy toolkit resources or head over to the Opportunity Learning Hub to learn more.

Charter Schools at National Summit

What turns everyday moms and dads from behind-the-scenes classroom helpers into bold education advocates? Learn from five parents who bravely fought for their child’s education…and won! We’ll explore how to empower parents in your state and how, by sharing their personal stories, these families opened the door to opportunity and changed the lives of countless students.

One of the most challenging barriers to expanding public charter schools is access to quality facilities. To address this, states have instituted a variety of policies and programs, such as direct funding, access to free facilities, and affordable financing. This session will explore how states can best combine these tools to ensure charter school supply meets family demand.

Dr. Perry believes that the success of a life is determined by where you end, not where you start. It is this philosophy that inspired him to transform the lives of poor and minority children. As a strong advocate of personal and civic responsibility, he inspired an audience of state legislators, policymakers, and education reform advocates to transform outdated education systems in their states and provide all students with access to a quality education through opportunity and innovation.

For far too many parents across the nation, struggle with the reality of sending their children, day after day, to schools that cannot or will not meet their needs. During this session, Mr. Stewart moderated a panel featuring the personal stories from Kelley Williams-Bolar, Ohio parent of two; Briana Gilchrist, New Jersey Charter School Alumnus; Whitney Smith, Tennessee parent of three; Cristina Maxwell, Florida parents of a Gardiner Scholarship Student; Walter Blanks, Ohio EdChoice Scholarship Alumnus; Theresa Canady, Indiana parent of charter school students; and Charlonda Brown, North Carolina parent of an Opportunity Scholarship student. This panel discussed the very real side of reform, and the lives impacted.

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, only 329 new charter schools opened across the United States in 2016, down from 640 new charters in 2013. Charter schools are still growing, but at a much slower rate than just a few years ago. Why are we seeing fewer new charter schools? What can policymakers do to ensure that new high-quality charter schools are able to open and serve families? Join this session for a conversation with researchers and state lawmakers to learn what is behind this trend and how states can address the need for more quality schools in our communities.

For 25 years, charter schools have been front-and-center in education debates. From the start, the “charter bargain” was simple: schools receive autonomy in exchange for producing results. As we celebrate the silver anniversary of the charter school movement, it’s time to reflect on the past and consider the future. Join this session to discuss the impact of charter schools on the American education system, what’s next for charter schools and the outcomes of the bargains struck by schools and communities.