Charter schools are semi-autonomous public schools that receive public funds. They operate under a written contract with a state, district or other entity (referred to as an authorizer or sponsor). This contract — or charter — details how the school will be organized and managed, what students will be expected to achieve, and how success will be measured. Many charter schools are exempt from a variety of laws and regulations affecting other public schools if they continue to meet the terms of their charters.
Charter school laws vary from state to state and often differ on several important factors, such as who may authorize charter schools, how authorizers and charter schools are held accountable for student outcomes, and whether the teachers in a charter school must be certified.
Currently, 44 states and the District of Columbia have charter school laws. Kentucky’s charter school laws, created in 2017, are the newest.
Education Commission of the States has researched charter school policies in all 50 states to provide this comprehensive resource, updated January 2018. Click on the questions below for 50-State Comparisons, showing how all states approach specific charter school policies. Or view a specific state’s approach by going to the individual state profiles page.
Charter school basics
- Does the state have a charter school law?
- Does the state allow existing public schools to convert to charter schools?
- Does the state have any caps on the number of charter schools?
- Who may apply to open a charter school?
- Does the state specify the types of charter schools that may be given approval preference?
- Does the state specify the students who may be given enrollment preference?
- Does the state specify who must provide transportation to charter school students?
Charter school authorizing
- What organizations may authorize charter schools, and is there a statewide authorizing body?
- Is there an appeals process for charter applicants?
- Has the state established standards for quality school authorizing that authorizers must meet?
- Does the state require the authorizer to report on the performance of its portfolio of schools?
- Are there sanctions in place for authorizers?
- What rules are waived for charter schools?
- Does the state specify grounds for terminating or not renewing a school’s charter?
- Does the state set a threshold beneath which a school must automatically be closed?
- How is the funding for a charter school determined?
- Who provides charter schools with their funding?
- Does the state provide start-up or planning grants to new charter schools?
- What kind of facilities funding is available to charter schools?
- Do teachers in a charter school have to be certified?
- What sets teacher salaries?
- Does the state require school districts to grant teachers a leave of absence to teach in a charter school?
- Do teachers in a state’s charter schools have equal access to the public school teachers’ retirement system?
- Does state law explicitly allow virtual charter schools?
- Is there a statewide authorizer specific for virtual charter schools?
- Does the state set enrollment limits for virtual charter schools?
- Is there additional oversight specific to virtual charter schools?
Charter school autonomy and accountability
Charter school finance
Charter school teachers
Virtual charter schools
- Recent state legislation – Charter Schools. Education Commission of the States staff review state legislation and regulations weekly to keep this resource updated.
- Charter Authorizers: What they are & why they matter
- Charter School Accountability Under ESSA
- School Choice Glossary
Micah Ann Wixom
PUBLISHED: January 23, 2018
RESOURCE TYPE: 50-State Comparison
EDUCATION LEVEL: Unspecified