Understanding Charter Schools

 “Simply put, a charter is a contract to
improve student achievement.” 

Charter schools are:

  • Innovative new public schools
  • With a legal contract: Autonomy for Accountability
  • Free to all students – no tuition
  • Open to all students – non selective, no admission tests
  • No religious affiliation is allowed
  • Voluntary options for students, parents, and teachers
  • Accountable for students learning!

A teacher teaches middle school students outdoors.Charter schools have the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement.  They give parents the opportunity to choose a public school based on their child’s specific needs, not their zip code.  And they foster partnerships between parents, teachers, and community members to develop next-generation learning models.

Charter schools are  publicly funded, governed and operated independently of the traditional district public school system. This independence means that each charter school can be different, creating their own curriculum, personnel policies, budgets, and calendars. Charter schools offer parents a better variety of education choices, so they can select a public school that will best meet their child’s needs and fit their unique learning style.

Charter School Authorizers

Charter schools must earn a contract from their authorizer – the government entity that approves their application, awards their charter, negotiates their performance contract, monitors their performance, and decides if it is appropriate to renew or revoke their charter at the end of their contract period.

  • CommissionMeetingThe Maine Charter School Commission is one of two types of entities permitted to authorize public charter schools in Maine. The Commission can authorize up to 10 public charter schools throughout the state during the first 10 years of Maine’s charter school law.
  • Local school boards, or a collaborative of school boards, also have the ability to authorize charter schools within the boundaries of their school administrative units.

Charters in Maine are granted for a period of five years, at the end of which a thorough review is conducted to determine whether the school’s charter will be renewed.  Each school’s charter is a legal contract with its authorizer that establishes the school’s goals and objectives including the academic standards and financial standards for which it will be held accountable.

In 2015, 43 states and the District of Columbia have enacted charter school laws enabling over 6,700 public charter schools to serve 2.9 million children. Maine enacted its charter law in 2011, and its .

Maine’s first charter schools opened in the 2012-13 school year, and today the following charter schools are authorized to operate in Maine:

Further Information:

Separating Fact & Fiction, What You Need to Know About Charter Schools“, by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Please see our RESOURCES webpage.