Charter schools are publicly funded elementary or secondary schools that have been freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools, in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each charter school's charter.
NEA believes that charter schools and other nontraditional public school options have the potential to facilitate education reforms and develop new and creative teaching methods that can be replicated in traditional public schools for the benefit of all children. Whether charter schools will fulfill this potential depends on how charter schools are designed and implemented, including the oversight and assistance provided by charter authorizers.
State laws and regulations governing charter schools vary widely. NEA's state affiliates have positions on charter schools that are appropriate to the situation in their states. NEA's policy statement sets forth broad parameters, and minimum criteria by which to evaluate state charter laws. For example:
- A charter should be granted only if the proposed school intends to offer an educational experience that is qualitatively different from what is available in traditional public schools.
- Local school boards should have the authority to grant or deny charter applications; the process should be open to the public, and applicants should have the right to appeal to a state agency decisions to deny or revoke a charter.
- Charter school funding should not disproportionately divert resources from traditional public schools.
- Charter schools should be monitored on a continuing basis and should be subject to modification or closure if children or the public interest is at risk.
- Private schools should not be allowed to convert to public charter schools, and private for-profit entities should not be eligible to receive a charter.
- Charter schools should be subject to the same public sector labor relations statutes as traditional public schools, and charter school employees should have the same collective bargaining rights as their counterparts in traditional public schools.
NEA Policy on Charter Schools - Policy statement adopted by the 2001 Representative Assembly.
Evaluation of the Public Charter Schools Program: Final Report - Department of Education study (2004) of the federally funded program found that charter schools in five states were less likely than public schools to meet state performance standards.
Charter Schools: To Enhance Education's Monitoring and Research, More Charter School-Level Data Are Needed - A report by the Government Accountability Office recommended that the U.S. Department of Education collect basic data from recipients of federal charter school funds