What is a Charter School?
Charter schools are public, nonsectarian schools created through a business-like contract or "charter" between the charter governance board and the sponsoring school board or other chartering authority. The Wisconsin charter school law gives charter schools freedom from most state rules and regulations in exchange for greater accountability for results. The charter defines the missions and methods of the charter school. The chartering authority holds the school accountable to its charter. The charter school motto is "Autonomy for Accountability."
Wisconsin established charter schools to foster an environment for innovation and parental choice. They can exist as living laboratories that influence the larger public school system and introduce an element of competition within that system. Charter schools are created with the best elements of regular public schools in mind. Their leaders may experiment with different instructional theories, site-based management techniques, and other innovations. They learn, sometimes by trial and error, what works best for their student population. Regular schools can observe and learn from what happens in the charter school and make similar improvements. Through this process, the entire public school system is continually challenged to improve itself.
Wisconsin also wants each charter school to meet the unique needs and interests of its community, parents, and students. This is what makes each charter school unique. While many goals for educating and preparing children are similar, each charter school fulfills a specific local need in education. Some charter schools offer a choice to parents and students in the area of curriculum, teaching methodology, and classroom structure. Others work to keep that small population of at-risk students from falling through the cracks, offering counseling, personal attention, and support. In districts with charter schools, the community, school boards, and parents have identified their public education needs and have established charters that meet them.
For more information on charter schools in Wisconsin see:
- Wisconsin Resource Center for Charter Schools (WRCCS)
- Wisconsin Charter Schools Quick Facts
- Currently Operating Charter Schools
- Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau Information Paper on Charter Schools, January 2023