charter school
Most charter schools operate through a lottery placement system due to the demand. (Getty Images)

By Shnieka L. Johnson

Families weighing their child’s educational options for prekindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school are in the thick of applications, essays, and assessments or testing. 

So, how does one choose the best option? Begin with the big decision: public or private. Then, take a look at the options within your preferred category. Those looking for an alternative to public school will also have access to a host of charter schools.

Charter schools (founded by not-for-profit boards of trustees) receive government funding, but unlike public schools, they operate independently under a contract (or charter)—an example of what has been labeled by some as “public asset privatization” or contracting out. Since the passing of the New York Charter Schools Act of 1998, there has been debate from government officials and families alike about whether these schools should be considered public. According to the U.S. Department of Education, given that charter schools are open to all students and do not charge tuition, they are categorized right alongside your area public schools.

Charter schools may not have all the regulations of a districted school, but they are accountable for academic results and upholding promises that the charter school stemmed from. With more than 200 charter schools in New York City, there are tens of thousands of families who are served by these institutions, and these schools have thousands more on their waitlists.

So, why are so many families choosing charter schools? Many charter schools have more flexibility in their offerings, a longer school year, extended daily hours, and additional programming.

Although every charter is different (the model, goals, and policies may vary) — overall, they are outperforming their neighborhood counterparts on state tests (English language arts and math).

Many families are drawn by the opportunity to send their children to high-performing charter schools. Most operate through a lottery placement system due to the demand.

Families in the midst of the school search should check individual school websites for listings of tours, open houses, and application instructions.

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