Public Charter Schools Frequently Asked Questions
Q: WHAT IS A PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL?
A: A public charter school is a public school that provides instruction in any combination of grades, kindergarten through grade twelve. Parents, teachers, or community members may initiate a charter petition, which is typically presented to authorizers. In Nevada, the authorizers include the State Public Charter School Authority and respective school districts. Specific goals and operating procedures for a charter school are detailed in the agreement between the charter authorizing entity and the charter developer.
Q: WHAT IS A VIRTUAL PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL?
A: A virtual public charter is an entirely online school. With a virtual public charter, there is usually not a brick-and-mortar campus where students attend class. Students participate from their own homes, or any location with an internet connection. Virtual public charter schools usually have a headquarters office with a small number of staff, and teachers who work remotely.
Q: DO PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS CHARGE TUITION?
A: No. All public charter schools are 100% tuition free. Public charter schools are public schools and are funded by taxpayers the same way that traditional public schools are.
Q: WHO CAN ENROLL IN A NEVADA PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL?
A: Anyone. A public charter must enroll anyone who applies to attend the school assuming there is capacity. This includes students with special needs, English Language Learners and credit deficient students. Students are also not limited based on where they live. You can live in any part of town and attend a public charter school of your choice.
When applications are greater than the number of seats available, public charters enroll students through a lottery process that complies with state laws and regulations. Parents complete an application for enrollment to enter their children into the enrollment lottery.
Q: DO STUDENTS HAVE TO LIVE IN A CERTAIN AREA TO ATTEND A PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL?
A: No. Public charters are open to students anywhere in the state. Unlike a traditional system where your public school is determined by where you are “zoned,” where you live does not determine the school you can attend.
Q: HOW ARE PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS FUNDED?
A: As public schools, charters receive public funds at approximately the same rate of the Distributive Student Account (“DSA”). However, unlike their traditional district school peers, public charters receive $0 in facility funding, meaning they must pay for their facilities out of the same DSA funding that is meant to be for operational expenses. Because of that, as a whole they are funded at a much lower rate than their traditional district school peers.
Q: HOW ARE CHARTER SCHOOLS STARTED?
A: A group of Nevada residents can create a Committee to Form a charter school, and submit an application to a potential authorizers, be it the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority or a respective school district. There are rules about the composition of the Committee to Form. It has to include parents, credentialed teachers, and experienced professionals in other fields.
Q: ARE THE TEACHERS CERTIFIED?
A: Yes, the same licensing requirements that apply to teachers at traditional public schools apply to teachers at charters.
Q: ARE UNIFORMS REQUIRED?
A: Some brick-and-mortar charters require uniforms. Varies by school.
Q: DO ALL PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS HAVE A NICHE FOCUS?
A: No. Some public charters may have a niche focus, like performing arts or serving at-risk students, but many charters make overall excellent academics their main focus. All public charters in Nevada must have a mission and must strive to achieve it.
Q: HOW DO PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS BENEFIT NEVADA RESIDENTS?
A: Public charter schools provide additional choices to parents and students. The traditional public education system is not right for every student. Public charters give taxpayers the opportunity to exercise more choice in how their education tax dollars are used to further their children’s education.
Q: WHO GOVERNS PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS?
A: Each public charter school has a Governing Board––a group of Nevada residents who have a vested interest in the success of the school, and volunteer their time to steer the school toward accomplishing its mission. These governing boards are public bodies, and as such are subject to the Open Meeting Law.
Q: WHAT HAPPENS IF A PUBLIC CHARTER IS UNDERPERFORMING?
A: Public charter schools (virtual and brick-and-mortar) are relatively autonomous––in many ways a charter is like a school district of just one school. This autonomy allows public charter schools to adopt innovative approaches to education. In exchange for this autonomy, public charters are held to very high performance standards. Students are required to participate in the same state tests as all other public school students in Nevada, and test results are used to evaluate the effectiveness of the school. Each school is given a performance score based on a 5-star system. If a school receives a 1 or 2 star ranking, they are put on Notice of Breach and are required to go before their Authorizer to present the steps they intend to take to remedy their performance. If a school fails to achieve at least a 3 star ranking for three consecutive years, the Authorizer will void their charter and the school will be closed.