What Exactly Is a Charter School?

There was a time when parents only had two choices for schooling – the free neighborhood public school or an expensive private school. If you didn’t have the money, your children were stuck in a rigid environment that may not fit their learning style and objectives.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports the number of charter schools increased from 2,000 to 7,000 between 2000 and 2017. Charter schools now represent 7% of all public schools, but many parents are still asking, what exactly is a charter school?

What’s the Difference Between Charter School and Public School?

The first thing to know is that charter schools are public schools. Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools are run under a legislative contract, also known as a charter. This charter outlines the accountability standards for the school, but it also exempts it from some local and state academic regulations.

Charter schools:

  • Do not charge tuition

  • Receive state funding

  • Do not have entrance exams

  • Are open to anyone, regardless of race, gender, or religion



Charter schools offer variety in curriculum and environment, sometimes focusing on specific areas like math or art. They’re often started by teachers and other educators who found success with a curriculum that doesn’t fit into the rigid rules passed down from the state education board to the local school district. When parents ask, what exactly is a charter school, the short answer is that it is a school focused on core academic areas run by passionate educational professionals.


Traditional public schools are filled with the population of the surrounding neighborhood, whereas charter schools have much more diversity. Because they’re public schools, charter schools participate in state testing and federal accountability programs. They simply set different rules and performance standards to achieve this.


Charter schools often outperform traditional public schools because of curriculum autonomy. They’re able to specialize in academic disciplines, offer students smaller classes with more one-on-one time, and achieve educational excellence. The better quality of education compared to their area public school is a major reason parents are looking to charter schools for their children.


When parents are asking, what exactly is a charter school, they’re often trying to find alternatives to their area public schools. Often, parents express concern over the quality of education their child will receive.


Charter schools do have an application process, but there’s no entrance exam. There’s no tuition fee, and all children are accepted, with no geographic restrictions.

In contrast, California public schools follow the District of Choice program set limits and restrictions on which schools children can attend, paying special attention to districts. Charter schools aren’t required to adhere to these limits. Their charters exempt them from the limitations of traditional public schools. Exact application processes are set by the individual school and can vary widely.

Why Choose Ballington Academies

Ballington Academy for the Arts and Sciences is an innovative charter school for elementary aged students, made possible by a charter with the Volunteers of America Southwest. It offers innovative Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) curriculum to students in grades K-6, with locations in El Centro and San Bernardino, CA.

This curriculum is aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). With 25 or fewer students per class, your child will get specialized instruction, individual attention, and access to technology labs, after-school tutoring, and more.

Apply to send your students to Ballington Academy for the upcoming school year.