Charter Schools: Myths vs. Facts   

Over the last two decades, student enrollment in public charter schools in the U.S. has grown exponentially. Today, charter schools serve an estimated 3.2 million public school students nationwide. And IDEA Public Schools serves more than 50,000 of those public school students and by 2022 we will serve more than 100,000.

With the growth of charter schools across the U.S., there is also a wealth of misinformation on public charter schools, and we want to bust a few of the myths you might have heard. If you have other questions about public charter schools or IDEA Public Schools, reach out to us at


MYTH: Charter schools are not public schools.

FACT: As defined in federal and state law, charter schools are public schools. They must meet the same standards as public schools including being:

  • tuition-free and open to all students
  • nonsectarian and nondiscriminatory in all circumstances
  • publicly funded by local, state and federal tax dollars based on enrollment
  • held accountable for meeting state and federal academic standards


MYTH: Public charter schools do not have accountability standards like traditional public schools.

FACT:  Public charter schools are publicly funded schools that are governed by a group or organization under a legislative contract — or charter — with the state, district or other entity. While the agreement may exempt the school from certain state or local regulations, in return for flexibility and autonomy, the charter school must meet all accountability standards outlined in its charter. The school’s charter is reviewed periodically and can be revoked if guidelines on curriculum and management are not followed or if accountability standards are not met. This is in stark contrast to district-run public schools, where failing schools can often undergo school improvement and turnaround measures for years, while generations of children continue to receive a subpar education.


MYTH: Charter schools hand-pick only the best and highest-performing students from traditional public schools.

FACT: Charter schools are open to all students regardless of race, income, neighborhood, prior academic performance, or special education status. If there are more interested students than available seats, the charters are required to hold lotteries, which randomly determine which students will be enrolled. For questions about the lottery, read our FAQ blog here.

MYTH: Charters do not do enough for children with special needs.

FACT: All public schools should do more for children with disabilities. Because there is more flexibility in the way that charters are operated and run, they have more freedom to create a customizable education for students, including students with special needs, than a traditional district school. Charters in Texas serve proportions of students with disabilities at rates close to traditional public schools: nine percent in traditional public schools compared to eight percent in charter schools. That small gap has been shrinking even more as more parents discover what charter schools can offer their children.

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