Charter school basics

DeWayne Bartels

Charter schools are public schools that exist under a charter, or contract, from the school board in the city. Like public schools, they are accountable for improved student achievement and fiscal responsibility.  

However, a charter school differs from a normal public school in that charter schools do not have to operate under the same rules and regulations as regular public schools. Charter schools have more flexibility and control over curriculum, Pearson said. They do not have to use the same textbooks as the rest of a school district. 

There are 4,100 charter schools across the nation, with only 60 allowed in Illinois under state law.

Charter schools in Illinois have a political past.

It was not until 1996 that the Illinois General Assembly passed a charter school law. Illinois law limits the number of charter schools across the state to 60 — 30 allowed in Chicago, 15 in the suburbs and 15 downstate.

The longest period allowable for an initial charter in Illinois is 10 years, with five-year renewals after that.

The school board giving the charter can also take it away. Charter schools exist on state aid, just like public schools. For every charter school student, the school receives, on average, about 82 percent of the state aid for a student.