The voice of California’s charter school movement

What’s the difference between charter schools and public schools?

By California Charter Schools Association

Before diving into the differences, let’s remember this important shared feature: charter schools ARE public schools!

Charter schools are tuition-free and open to all students. There’s no application that needs to be filled out. There’s no special eligibility or entrance requirements needed to attend.  Students from any zip code and all backgrounds can attend charter schools.

Now let’s turn our attention to the important differences between charter schools and traditional district schools:

  1. Charter schools provide passionate teachers with increased flexibility. In practice, that means teachers at charter schools are empowered to create dynamic lesson plans that meet the individual needs of students in their class.  


  1. Charter schools are free from the bureaucratic restrictions and red tape that can come between students, teachers, and learning. This creates an educational environment where teachers can focus on the needs of students first and foremost.


  1. Charter schools are directly accountable to the parents and students they serve. Parents are making the decision to send their child to a charter school based on the quality of education. There’s no requirement to stay at that school if it’s not meeting the needs of their child.

  2. While charter schools, like traditional district schools, are held to state and federal standards, the very existence of charter schools is dependent on how well they raise student achievement. Charter schools can be closed if they are not improving academic outcomes for students in the span of five years.

No other type of public school has made that promise of accountability. And it’s because of that level of accountability that California’s charter schools have a long track record of success in serving students from all backgrounds.

While these key differences do exist between charter and district schools, it’s important to remember that they are both on a shared mission to strengthen our education system and help put every student on a brighter path. 

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