What is a Charter School?

What is a Charter School?
A charter school is a public school operated as a semi-autonomous school of choice authorized by a sponsoring school district, Oregon Department of Education or local university. A charter school operates under a charter (a contract) between the charter school and its sponsor (authorizer). A public charter school is subject to certain laws (ORS 338) pertaining to public schools. Charter schools are released from others laws and must operate in a manner consistent with the charter agreement (contract) with their sponsor.
The charter (contract) is generally renewed every three to ten years. Charter schools are highly accountable. As a non-profit entity (501(c)3) which is also funded by government (tax payer) money, charter schools are subject to an annual independent audit, they are required to submit financial statements quarterly to their authorizer as well as file federal 990 tax reports. Charter schools are subject to Open Meeting Laws and under the constant scrutiny of their state and local education entity.
How does a public charter school differ from a traditional public school?
Public charter schools were created to provide innovative, flexible and creative educational choices for students and their parents. They may be exempt from some state and district regulations and tend to have more autonomy than a traditional public school. There are two types of charter schools; those founded by the school district and those founded by autonomous groups or individuals. These two types of charter schools in Oregon may co-exist within the same district but have very different requirements and funding structures. Charter schools may be of any configuration; they can be high schools, elementary schools, middle schools or some combination of those three. They can have a particular focus such as Montessori, Technology Based, Environmental, or Waldorf. Their curriculum must be approved by their authorizer and they must test all students annually with the same testing instrument (OAKS) as other public schools. Their structure may also be different. Charter schools can be four day a week schools, year round schools or schools which immerse their students in another language. The biggest difference for most charter schools is the reduced funding they receive simply because they are a charter school.
Who may apply for a charter?
Any person, or group of persons, may apply to be a public charter school. The potential sponsor reviews the charter proposal, in accordance with ORS 338.055. If approved, a charter contract is executed by the authorizer and the governing board of the charter school. The charter school governing board may contract with a for-profit organization for services; however, the charter school board must retain control of governmental functions.