Charter schools are tuition-free public schools created by parents, educators, and community leaders—open to all students—that operate under a five-year contract, or 'charter.' Charter school students are required to take all state tests, and must comply with laws regarding health, safety, civil rights and special education.
Charter schools are independent and do not answer to a local school district superintendent or board of education. Instead, each charter school is run by its own board of trustees, responsible for overseeing the school and ensuring its success. Because charter schools are not bound by many of the state laws and regulations governing public education, they are free to develop their own curriculum, choose staff, set educational goals, offer a longer school day and school year, and establish their own standards for student behavior.
In return, a charter school must show within its five-year charter period that it has raised student achievement. Only if the school raises achievement will its charter be renewed. If the school fails, the charter school may lose its charter, which means it will have no license to operate and would close. Likewise, if a school continually violates the law, it may have its charter revoked. While this may seem daunting to parents, this type of high-stakes accountability is necessary to ensure an environment in which the best possible quality education for all students is the norm.
It is important to note that public charter schools and their boards are subject to ongoing oversight and monitoring by their ‘authorizer,’ and the New York State Board of Regents, in an effort to facilitate success. Under the New York State Charter Schools Act of 1998, authorizers, those with the power to create charter schools and thereafter to renew charters of successful schools, include: the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York, the New York State Board of Regents, or local boards of education (in New York City, authorizing power is vested in the New York City Schools Chancellor). The Charter Schools Institute was established by the State University Trustees to assist them in carrying out their responsibilities under the act.