What is a Charter School?

Richmond Preparatory Charter School will be the fourth charter school in the ICS network and the ninth charter school on Staten Island. With so many charter schools opening on Staten Island, it is important to know what one is and isn’t.

Charter schools are independent public schools operated by a Board of Trustees. In the case of Richmond Prep, New York State has authorized the Board of Trustees of Integration Charter Schools to oversee the school. As an independent school, the rules that a charter school must follow are contained in its charter and include any laws implemented by its authorizer. As Richmond Prep is a New York State Authorized school it is held to the same standards as any other school within New York State. This means that rules or laws pertaining to testing, attendance, special education, etc. all apply to Richmond Prep as well.

Many people often ask, why do we need charter schools, and that is a good question. Charter schools exist for two major reasons, to give parents options and to try new models of education. In our current system of schooling a parent’s choices are often limited to their neighborhood (especially on the Elementary and Middle school levels) or to a private school. A charter school exists to give parents more options as to which school you can send your child. Additionally, as charter schools are independent their educational model can vary from school to school. This enables educational change to happen more rapidly and when these new practices are shared amongst all schools education improves for everyone.

 You may hear some negative things said about charter schools, so let’s clear up what we can:

“Charter Schools need more accountability!”

Charter schools are given a five year charter (a contract to operate) and must renew the charter at the conclusion of each term. There is no guarantee that the charter will be renewed, or will be renewed for the full five years; the charter school must prove that it is a high performing thriving school in order to earn a renewal (there is a long set of measurements that each school must meet). Additionally, each school is reviewed yearly by its authorizer. You could argue that charter schools are held more accountable than most schools with this model.

“Charter schools can cherry pick the best students!”

In order to enroll in a charter school, you must apply through a lottery. Charter schools actually have no control over who gets into their schools and who doesn’t. A charter school can have a weighted lottery to ensure certain enrollment targets are met, but they cannot deny entry to someone who is awarded a seat through the lottery, only the parent can make that decision. This one is simply untrue.

“Charter schools take money from district schools!”

This one is more complicated, but on its face it is true with an explanation. Schools receive what is called “per pupil funding” for each student that enrolls in their school. Schools use this funding to create their budgets and fund their programs. When a family chooses to enroll their child in a different school, the funding follows them and their previous school “loses” that money. It does not matter if that school is another public school, a private school, parochial school, or charter school, the funding follows the student. So if a parent chose to enroll their child in a charter school instead of a public school, yes that public school would lose funding, but the charter school is not taking it, the parent has chosen a different school. Consider if a new pizzeria opens in a neighborhood that already has one, would that pizzeria be taking money away from the older pizzeria, or would the customers be shifting their money based on their choice? It is the same concept, expect here a charter schools will get, on average, 20% less funding per student than a district school would. So not only did the charter school not take anything away from anyone (the parent made a choice) but it costs the taxpayers less to choose a charter school.

Hopefully this has cleared up some confusion around what a charter school is and isn’t. At the end of the day we feel that more options for families is always a good thing, and we hope that we can become one for your child.