Charter schools: A public school experience with a streak of independence

(Raleigh) News & Observer

Charter schools are public schools authorized by the State Board of Education. North Carolina has 167 charter schools, with 25 in Mecklenburg County and another 14 in surrounding counties. Last year some 15,500 Mecklenburg County students were enrolled in charter schools.

Charters are tuition free. They are not controlled by local school boards and operate free of the regulations that govern traditional public schools. For instance, they do not have to follow the state curriculum guidelines - they can create their own curriculum if they wish.

Still, charters are held accountable for student achievement through state-mandated tests and other assessments, just like traditional public schools. Here are some other facts about charters:

▪ They are funded primarily by federal, state and local tax dollars on a per pupil basis.

▪ North Carolina charter schools must be governed by nonprofit boards, but many are managed by for-profit chains.

▪ Charter schools are subject to open meeting and public record laws, which means you should be able to attend board meetings and request information.

▪ Charter schools don't have to provide meals or buses; check with individual schools if that's an issue.

▪ Charter school enrollment is open to all students and is not restricted by geographic boundaries. A student in Union County can attend a Mecklenburg-based charter, for example.

▪ If more students apply than space is available, then a lottery is held. The application period opened in November for most charter schools. Look for applications and deadlines on the individual school websites.

For more information about charter schools visit