What is a charter school?

A charter school is an independently run public school granted greater flexibility in its operations, in return for greater accountability for performance. The “charter” establishing each school is a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, students served, performance goals, and methods of assessment.  All charter schools in Colorado, including Roots Elementary, are not-for-profit organizations with 501(c)3 status.  

What is the difference between charter schools and other public schools?

Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning that families choose them for their children. They operate with freedom from some of the regulations that are imposed upon district schools. Charter schools are accountable for academic results and for upholding the promises made in their charters. They must demonstrate performance in the areas of academic achievement, financial management, and organizational stability. If a charter school does not meet performance goals, it may be closed. In effect, a charter school is exactly the same as a district school, but the charter school leadership reports to an independent, not-for-profit board of directors, rather than the district bureaucracy.

Who authorizes charter schools?

This varies from state to state, and district to district, but in Denver, Denver Public Schools (DPS) is the sole authorizer of charter schools.  Roots Elementary was recommended by DPS staff for authorization and the recommendation was unanimously approved by the seven member board of directors.

Who can start a charter school?

Parents, community leaders, social entrepreneurs, businesses, teachers, school districts, and municipalities can submit a charter school proposal to their state’s charter authorizing entity.

Who attends charter schools? Whom do they serve?

Nationwide, students in charter schools have similar demographic characteristics to students in the local public schools. In some states, charter schools serve significantly higher percentages of minority or low-income students than the traditional public schools. Charter schools accept students by random, public lottery.

How are charter schools funded?

As public schools, charter schools are tuition-free. They are funded according to enrollment levels and receive public funds on a per pupil basis. Charter schools are entitled to federal categorical funding for which their students are eligible, such as Title I and Special Education monies. Federal legislation provides grants to help charters to manage start-up costs.