Myth #1. Charter schools are private, for-profit schools.
Fact. DC law requires that a charter school must be a nonprofit organization. A charter school may, however, enter into a contract with a for-profit company just as traditional school districts may contract with vendors to provide services such as school lunches, security, transportation, curriculum support, or accounting.
Myth #2. Okay, but charter schools are not really public schools.
Fact. Charter schools are public schools that operate independently from the school district central office. They are funded with taxpayer dollars. Each charter school is considered to be a Local Education Agency. In other words, each charter school is its own school district with its own board.
Myth #3. Charter schools charge tuition.
Fact. Charter schools are tuition-free for all DC resident students. Only non-DC residents can be charged tuition.
Myth #4. Charter schools only accept certain students.
Fact. Because charter schools are public schools, they must accept any DC resident student until the school's enrollment is full. If more students want to enroll than there are seats available, the school must hold a lottery to determine which students can be admitted. Charter schools cannot require an admissions test, audition, minimum grade point average, or any other criteria to admit students.
Myth #5. Charter schools are serving affluent families.
Fact. Charter schools serve a high percentage of low-income students. Free- and reduced-lunch enrollment was 78% in the public charter schools as compared to 63% in the traditional DC public schools in the 2003-2004 school year.
Myth #6. Charter schools are not serving children of color.
Fact. In 2003-2004, charter school enrollment was 92% African American, 6% Latino, 1% White, .2% Asian, and .8% Other.
Myth #7. Charter schools are not accountable.
Fact. Charter schools are freed from certain regulations in exchange for increased accountability for student achievement. They are held to the same federal requirements as traditional public schools under the No Child Left Behind Act, and have additional requirements from their authorizers. If a charter school does not meet the terms of its charter agreement, or fails to appropriately manage its finances and operations, it can be shut down.
Myth #8. Charter schools get more money than DC Public Schools.
Fact. Using the exact same formula as the DC Public Schools, charter schools receive funding based on the number of enrolled students. In 2004-2005, DCPS and charter schools received an average of $6,900 per student, with additional amounts for students with special needs. Based on the DCPS capital budget, charter schools receive funds to purchase, lease, or renovate a facility (about $2,380 per student for 04-05). The difference is that charter schools have total control over their budgets. Charter schools aren't required to “pay back” a percentage of per pupil funding to the DCPS central office; they have to use funds to provide central office services themselves.
Myth #9. Charter Schools take money from DC Public Schools.
Fact. When a child transfers to a charter school, the money follows that child. However, the DC charter school law provides that DC Public Schools are funded based on the prior year's enrollment and charter schools are funded on current year enrollment. That gives DCPS a “cushion” since the District is funded for students who have already transferred out. Since the first public charter school opened in 1997, DCPS’s annual operating funding has actually increased even though its enrollment has declined.
Myth #10. Charter Schools are undermining the DC Public Schools.
Fact. Charter schools are a means to reform public education; they instill accountability into public education schools are closed if they don't perform. They also infuse hope into a system in which the public has been losing confidence. Charter schools expand choices and provide a variety of models for different learning styles and interests (afro-centric, bilingual, performing arts, residential, vocational, and others) complimenting the District's educational offerings.