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Charter School FAQ Section 1

Frequently asked questions regarding charter schools.

Responses to these frequently asked questions are advisory only. Charter schools and charter authorizers are encouraged to review the laws and regulations that provide the basis for these responses, and to consult with their own legal counsel regarding the application of these issues to specific situations.

General Information

  1. What is a charter school?

    A charter school is a public school that provides instruction in any of grades kindergarten through grade twelve. A charter school is usually created or organized by a group of teachers, parents, and community leaders, or a community-based organization, and is usually sponsored by an existing local public school board or county board of education. Specific goals and operating procedures for the charter school are detailed in an agreement, or charter, between the sponsoring board and charter organizers.

    A charter school is generally exempt from most laws governing school districts, except where specifically noted in the law. Charter school pupils are required to participate in all statewide assessments that are applicable to pupils in noncharter public schools. Parents have the right to waive, under specified conditions, state testing requirements for the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) System. A charter school cannot disregard or take away this parental right. Further information regarding the CAASPP system can be found at CAASPP System. The law also requires that a public charter school be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations, and prohibits the conversion of a private school to a charter school. Charter schools may not charge tuition and may not discriminate against any pupil on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, or disability.

  2. Are charter schools part of the public school system?

    Yes. Charter schools are under the jurisdiction of the public school system, as specified in California Education Code Section 47615 External link opens in new window or tab..

  3. Are there different types of charter schools?

    As of the 2021–22 school year, there more than 1,300 active charter schools and seven all-charter districts. Among these active charter schools, are classroom-based, or site-based schools, nonclassroom-based or independent study schools, and schools that offer a combination of both these modalities. In addition, many of the active charter schools are start-up charter schools, with a smaller percentage being schools that were converted from preexisting public schools.

  4. Where can I find information about a specific charter school on the California Department of Education website?

    An interactive map can be found at Charter Schools in California Counties. This map identifies the county in which a school is located and provides information on the type of school, school contacts, grade levels served, type of curriculum, and in some cases, school demographics and previous school performance.

    A list of charter schools is available in the Charter School Database. Included in the listing is the charter number, school name, location (county and district), county-district-school code, start date, expiration date, charter type, funding mode, and site type.

    The California School Directory is a helpful tool, if the name of the charter schools is known. It also provides the opportunity to search more broadly, by county, school district, and school type. This resource provides information such as school administrator names and contact information, physical address, web address, charter school number, funding type, and grade levels served.

  5. Where can I find information about the current academic performance of a charter school?

    Information regarding a charter school's academic performance is available on the California School Dashboard External link opens in new window or tab.. Information about the California School Dashboard can be found at California School Dashboard and System of Support.

  6. What is the protocol for filing a general complaint about a charter school?

    Complaints should first be addressed at the school site by talking with the teacher and, if necessary, the school principal. If the problem is not resolved, the school’s governing board should be contacted, followed by the school’s charter authorizing entity. Charter schools receiving federal funds are subject to provisions of the Uniform Complaint Procedures.

  7. What is the protocol for filing a complaint about discouragement from enrollment at a charter school?

    Charter schools are not allowed to discourage a pupil from enrolling or seeking to enroll in the charter school because the pupil exhibits any characteristics under California Education Code (EC) Section 220 External link opens in new window or tab.. A parent, guardian, or pupil (18 years or older) may file a Charter School Complaint Form with the authorizing entity if they suspect the charter school is in violation of EC Section 47605(d)(4) External link opens in new window or tab.. For more information visit Charter School Complaint Notice and Form.

  8. Do charter schools receive accreditation?

    Only charter schools that successfully complete an accreditation process receive accreditation. The majority of charter high schools seek accreditation through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

  9. How will new legislation affect charter schools?

    A number of bills have recently been passed that have made some significant changes to how charter schools are approved, renewed, funded, and operated. For information about this legislation and how it affects charter schools, charter authorizers, teachers, and parents, visit Legislation Impacting Charters.

  10. How can I receive updates on important information related to charter schools?

    The California Department of Education (CDE) Charter-Schools Listserv provides the California charter school community and other interested parties a conduit to important and time sensitive information from the CDE. The Charter-Schools Listserv is an open listserv with no membership restrictions and is maintained in coordination with Charter Schools Division staff. For information and instructions for subscribing to the listserv, visit Charter Schools Listserv.

  11. Where can I find additional information about charter schools?

    External resources with information for charter schools, charter authorizers, teachers, and parents, are provided at Charter School External Resources.


Return to Charter School Frequently Asked Questions

Questions:   Charter Schools Division | charters@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-6029
Last Reviewed: Thursday, October 14, 2021
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