Savannah-Chatham County Public School System

 Charter School Frequently Asked Questions

What is a charter school?
A charter school is a public school of choice that operates under the terms of a charter, or contract, with an authorizer, such as the state and local boards of education. Charter schools receive flexibility from certain state and local rules in exchange for a higher degree of accountability for raising student achievement. Charter schools are held accountable by their authorizer(s) for upholding the terms of their charter. 

What is a charter?
A charter is a performance-based contract between a local board of education and the charter petitioner, the terms of which are approved by the State Board of Education (SBOE) in the case of a local charter school, between the SBOE and a charter petitioner in the case of state-chartered special school, or between a local board and the SBOE in the case of a charter system. See O.C.G.A. 20-2-2062(1). 

What is the duration of a charter?
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. Sections 20-2-2067.1(b), the State Board of Education typically grants 5-year charters. At the request of the petitioner, this term may be shorter. Charter terms may not exceed 10 years. 

May a charter be amended?
Yes, a charter contract may be amended pursuant to O.C.G.A. Section 20-2-2067.1. Amendments are subject to local and state board approval.

May a charter be terminated?
Yes, a charter contract may be terminated.

Are charter schools public schools?
Yes. Charter schools are public schools. As such they receive public funding, cannot charge tuition, must have fair and open enrollment, must be secular, and are required to serve all student populations, including students with disabilities and English language learners. 

What is the difference between a charter school and a traditional public school?
Two words can help distinguish charter schools from traditional public schools: autonomy and flexibility. Charter schools are governed, not by a local board of education, but by an autonomous non-profit board of directors, and they receive flexibility from certain state and local rules and regulations in exchange for a higher level of accountability. Charter schools use this flexibility to implement innovative or unique programs, in order to provide educational options to parents and students that are not typically available in the traditional public schools. 

What is the difference between a charter school and a Choice Program (Magnet) school?
A magnet or theme school is typically a school within a local school district that offers a certain instructional program. Many magnet or theme schools may have admissions criteria such as: test scores; teacher recommendations; or grades. Charter schools operate independently from the local district, and they are not allowed to have admissions criteria. For example, a charter school cannot require students to pass a test or have a certain grade point average in order to be admitted. 

What is the difference between a charter school and a private school?
Charter schools are public schools of choice. Unlike private schools, they receive public funding, cannot charge tuition, and are not allowed to have admissions criteria. Also unlike private schools, charter schools are subject to many of the same state and all federal regulations as traditional public schools. For example, charter schools participate in the same statewide assessments and accountability measures as traditional public schools. 

What are the different types of charter schools in Georgia?
In Georgia, there are two types of charter schools: start-up charter schools and conversion charter schools. Start-up charter schools are often grouped by their authorizer: locally-approved charter schools and state-chartered special schools. 

What is a start-up charter school?
A start-up charter school is a charter school that did not exist prior to becoming a charter school. 

What is a conversion charter school?
A conversion charter school is a charter school that previously existed as a traditional public school. The traditional public school entered into a charter to gain additional flexibility in exchange for greater accountability. 

What is a state-chartered special school?
A state-chartered special school is a school that has been approved by the State Board of Education after having been denied by a local school district. 

Do charter schools serve students with special needs?
Yes. Charter schools, as public schools, are required to comply with IDEA and Section 504. 

How are charter schools held accountable for academic results?
Schools are held accountable for academic results through their charter contract with an authorizer (the local school district and/or the State Board of Education). The contract stipulates certain academic performance goals that the school must meet in order to fulfill the terms of its charter. 

How do I find out how a particular charter school is doing?
Information regarding a charter schools performance can be accessed on the Georgia Department of Education Accountability website or the Annual Report located on the Georgia Department of Education Charter School Division’s website. 

Do charter schools receive the same amount of funding as traditional public schools?
Yes. According to GA Code section 20-2-2068.1(a), “the local board and the state board shall treat a conversion charter school no less favorably than other local schools located within the applicable local school system unless otherwise provided by law. The local board and the state board shall treat a start-up charter school no less favorably than other local schools within the applicable local system with respect to the provision of funds for instruction, school administration, transportation, food services, and, where feasible, building programs." 




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