What are charter schools? They are public schools that are created by school districts, colleges, nonprofit organizations, or other entities. Charter schools are allowed to determine many of their own policies and practices; the goal is to innovate within the public school system. Charter schools are always public schools and they are not allowed to charge tuition. There are currently more than 7,000 charter schools in the U.S. serving more than 3.2 million children.
What options do you have for charter schools? Check out your state’s parent guide or scroll below to learn about charter schools near you.
As shown on this map, 45 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing for the creation of public charter schools. The number of students in charter schools has more than doubled in the last 10 years.
Alabama enacted a charter school law in 2015, but only had one charter school until 2018. That year, the state’s second charter school — University Charter, operated by the University of West Alabama — opened.
Learn more at New Schools for Alabama (Charter Schools).
Alaska passed charter school legislation in 1995 and currently has 29 charter schools that serve approximately 6,600 students.
Find frequently asked questions about Alaska charter schools on the Alaska Department of Education website.
Arizona is one of the most choice-rich states; it has several hundred charter schools that parents can choose from. For more information on charter schools in your state, check out the Arizona Charter Schools Association.
We recently interviewed one of Arizona’s very first charter schools, Benjamin Franklin Charter School. When we asked the charter school’s director of education, Shalisa Arnold, what one of the most common myths about charter schools is in Arizona, here’s what she shared: “I think there’s a big misconception that charter schools accept tuition. We don’t, we operate on the same funding as district schools do. We operate under the same laws and regulations that a regular district school does. A lot of parents feel like they get a private education, but for free, when they walk around our campuses.”
In 2017-2018, Arkansas had about 80 public charter schools for parents to choose from. In Arkansas there are both conversion schools and open-enrollment schools. Conversion schools are traditional public schools that have converted to charter schools. They only serve students within their district. Open-enrollment charter schools are run by a governmental entity, higher learning organization, or non-sectarian organization and can draw students from various districts.
As Arkansas.gov puts it, “Beyond the two basic types of charters, the concepts put in place by a public charter school are as broad as the imagination.” For one example of what charter schools offer Arkansas families, check out our conversation with LISA Academy a system of high-performing STEM charter schools. Another Arkansas charter school we talked to, Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy, makes classical education available to families in a free, public school environment.
California has several hundred charter schools, which can be found in this school directory. Each charter has a particular focus and strives to fill a unique role in the local community. When we interviewed the executive director of one of California’s largest charter schools, Granada Hills Charter School, we learned that the school serves students from 60 countries who, collectively, speak more than 40 languages!
For more info about California charter schools, check out The California Charter Schools Association.
As of the 2019-2020 school year, Colorado has more than 250 charter schools that parents can choose from.
You can learn more at the Colorado League of Charter Schools.
Connecticut has more than 20 public charter schools that parents can choose from.
To learn more about these options, check out the Northeast Charter Schools Network.
To learn more, you can also check out The Delaware Charter Schools Network.
Florida, one of the leading states in school choices, has several hundred charter schools. You can find more information on Florida’s many public charter schools here.
Georgia passed charter school legislation in 1996. According to the Georgia Department of Education, there are currently 115 charter schools (not including schools within charter systems) in the state. You can find frequently asked questions about these schools here.
You can also learn more at The Georgia Charter Schools Association.
Hawaii passed charter school legislation in 1994. As of 2018, Hawaii had more than 30 charter schools that families could choose from; you can find a list of Hawaii’s charter schools on the state’s Department of Education website.
Idaho passed charter school legislation in 1996. Today, Idaho has 43 brick-and-mortar charter schools and 9 virtual charter schools that parents can choose from. Learn more about Idaho’s charter schools from the Idaho Charter School Network.
You may also wish to check out the Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families.
Illinois also has 141 public charter schools, most of which are in Chicago. These are free public schools that are typically open to anyone.
For more information on charter schools in your Illinois, check out The Illinois Network of Charter Schools.
Indiana opened its first eleven charter schools in 2002. Today, there are more than 100 charter schools across the state, providing an important tuition-free education option for families. Indiana’s charter schools may be authorized by a governing body, a college, or the Indiana Charter School Board.
Learn more about Indiana’s charter schools at The Indiana Charter Schools Network.
Iowa enacted a charter school law in 2003 but there are just two authorized charter schools as of the 2019-2020 academic year. These are located in Storm Lake and Maynard, Iowa.
Depending on where you live in Kansas, you may also be able to choose a public charter school. Kansas has 10 public charter schools, you can find a list of them on this page.
In 2017, Kentucky became the 44th state in the country to allow charter schools. However, no charter schools have opened in Kentucky so far due to the fact that permanent funding has not yet been approved. So, charters are not yet a viable option for Kentucky families, but may be in the future!
You can learn more at the Kentucky Public Charter Schools Association.
Under Maine law, only 10 charter schools can be authorized in the first 10 years (2011-2021) of charter schools being allowed in the state. Maine’s 10th charter school, The Ecology Learning Center, is scheduled to open Fall 2020. For more information on charter schools in your state, check out the Maine Association for Charter Schools.
Maryland has 50 charter schools that parents can choose from and that serve more than 22,000 students.
For more information on charter schools in your state, check out the Maryland Alliance of Public Charter Schools.
Massachusetts currently has more than 70 charter schools that parents can choose from; you can find the list here.
Learn more from the Massachusetts Charter School Association.
Michigan has more than 300 charter schools that families can consider. You can learn more from the Michigan Charter Schools Association.
In Minnesota, there are about 164 charter schools serving 57,000 children.
For instance, one charter school executive director we talked to told us about the Core Knowledge curriculum that is part of her school’s charter. “A Core Knowledge school gives kids information through oral telling, through experience, and we add on to their knowledge all the time,” described Lynn Peterson of Cologne Academy.
Learn more about Minnesota charter schools at the MN Association of Charter Schools.
Mississippi passed legislation allowing charter schools in 2010. The state currently has 3 charter schools serving about 400 students.
Charter schools are another tuition-free public school option for families. Currently, Missouri only has charter schools in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.
You can learn more about your state’s charter school options at Missouri Charter Public School Association.
Montana is currently one of the few states that do not have public charter schools, but charters may be in Montana’s future!
Nebraska is one of only five states that has not passed laws allowing for the creation of public charter schools.
As of May 2019, New Jersey had 88 charter schools in operation serving approximately 52,000 students.
Check out more about your state’s charter schools at the New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association.
New Mexico has more than 90 charter schools that parents can choose from.
Learn more about charter school options in your state from the Public Charter Schools of New Mexico.
New York’s first charter school opened in 1999; today, there are 260 charter schools in New York City serving more than 126,000 students. Learn more about these options from the Northeast Charter Schools Network.
North Carolina has more than 180 public charter schools, you can find more information about them on the state’s Department of Education website here.
You can also check out the North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools.
North Dakota is one of only five states that have not yet passed laws allowing public charter schools.
In Ohio, charter schools are commonly referred to as “Community Schools.” Community schools or charter schools have been allowed in Ohio since 1997. Today there are more than 350 such schools.
Oklahoma passed charter school legislation in 1998. Today, Oklahoma families can currently choose from about 30 public charter schools.
You can learn more at the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association.
You can learn more at the League of Oregon Charter Schools.
Pennsylvania families can choose from more than 100 public charter schools. You can read about these options at the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.
We have interviewed a variety of charter schools in Pennsylvania with unique offerings: Tidouite Community Charter School is providing a personal option to a rural community; Manchester Academic Charter Academy serves its students with a strong mentor program; and Lincoln Charter School’s teacher and students are spreading the positive message that “even in hard times, people do good works.”
Rhode Island families can currently choose from about 30 public charter schools. The state passed charter school legislation in 1995.
Learn more about Rhode Island’s charter options at The Rhode Island League of Charter Schools.
South Carolina passed charter school legislation in 1996. Today, South Carolina families can choose from more than 75 charter schools.
You can learn more about these options at Public Charter School Alliance of South Carolina.
South Dakota is one of only five states that have not yet passed laws allowing public charter schools.
You can learn more about your state’s charter options at the TN Charter School Center.
Texas has had charter schools as an option for more than 20 years. In 2018 there were more than 750 charter schools in Texas.
You can read more about these charter offerings at the Texas Public Charter Schools Association.
Utah has more than 100 charter schools that parents can choose from; check out a map of charter schools here.
You can also learn more from The Utah Association of Public Charter Schools.
Vermont is one of only five states that have not yet passed laws allowing public charter schools. While Vermont families cannot yet choose public charters, this may be an option in the future!
Virginia passed charter school legislation in 1998. Today, Virginia has eight public charter schools, you can find a list of them on this page.
There are currently 10 operating charter schools in Washington. These are located in Highline, Tukwila, Kent, Seattle, Tacoma, Walla Walla, and Spokane and can be found on this map. Also, five more charters are approved to open in Fall 2020.
You can learn more at the Washington State Charter Schools Association.
While there are not yet any West Virginia charter schools open, the state passed legislation authorizing charter schools in 2019.
As of the 2019-2020 school year, Wisconsin families can choose from 236 public charter schools. You can read more at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s charter school page.
Wyoming passed charter school legislation in 1995. The state currently has four charter schools; these are located in Riverton, Laramie, and Cheyenne.
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Learn more from these interviews we did with charter schools across America:
The information in this guide is designed to help families who are considering charter schooling in their decision-making process. Our mission is to provide families with the information they need about all the school options available – traditional public, public charter, public magnet, private, online, and at home – so they can choose the right fit for their child. For more guides about choosing other types of schools, click here.
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