Frequently Asked

What is a charter school?

Charter schools are tuition free, innovative public schools approved by one of three entities in Utah – a local school district, the State Charter School Board, or an institution of higher learning.

Who Governs a Charter School?

Charter schools are typically designed and governed by volunteer board of trustees consisting of educators, parents, business and civic leaders.

Who can go to a charter school?

All charter schools are open to any student who wants to apply, regardless of where they live. If the school receives more students than for which it has spots available, it is required by law to hold a blind lottery to determine which students will have the opportunity to attend. Many charter schools have wait lists and may admit more students as spots become available.

How are charter schools funded?

Charter school receives education funding through Federal and State tax dollars.

How Do Charter Schools Differ from Traditional District Public Schools?

Charter schools operate on three basic principles:

Choice: Charter schools give families an opportunity to pick the school most suitable for their child’s educational well-being. Teachers choose to create and work at schools where they can directly shape the learning environment for their students and themselves in innovative ways. Likewise, charter authorizers choose to sponsor schools that are likely to best serve the needs of the students in a particular community.

Accountability: Charter schools are judged on how well they meet the student achievement goals established by their charter contracts. As a result, charter schools are given some level of autonomy to operate their schools – they may hire their own staff, develop their own curriculum, and develop their own programs. Charter schools must also show that they can perform up to rigorous fiscal and managerial standards. If a charter school cannot perform up to the established standards, it will be closed.

Flexibility: While charter schools must adhere to the same major laws and regulations as all other public schools, they are freed from the red tape that often diverts a school’s energy and resources away from educational excellence. Instead of constantly jumping through procedural hoops, charter school leaders can focus on setting and reaching high academic standards for their students. Some charter school programs focus on the basics — reading, writing, and the traditional school subjects with which some students struggle. Other schools have special arts or music programs or serve a particular community or educational need.*

What does a charter school offer students with special needs?

Charter schools believe every student deserves to be in an environment where they have the best chance of success and charter schools are committed to serving all students, including those with special needs. In fact, because charter schools have more flexibility than traditional public schools, they are uniquely situated to provide innovative, high quality educational services to students with special needs. Charter schools tailor their educational program or create specialized programs. Ultimately, in charter schools the student’s parents and representatives or the IEP team will make the final determination of the best option for that student.*

Why Are Charter Schools So Popular?

Educational quality: The primary reason for the existence of charter schools is to make sure every child has access to a quality education. With the freedom and choice to do so, charters set higher standards and must meet them to stay in business.

Focus on the kids: Perhaps one of the most important features of charter schools is that they are set up around the needs of children, not around the needs of adults. The focus should always be on the kids, and programs should be designed to help children succeed, no matter what it takes.

Safer, stronger communities: Charter schools typically engage local businesses and other organizations to help provide resources and services to the school and its families. Many charter schools create a community hub. Charter schools have a proven effect on the strength and safety of a community.*

How many charter schools are in Utah?

There are currently 118 charter schools in Utah with 6 more opening in the Fall of 2016.  Over 67,000 (roughly 10%) Utah students attend charter schools with over 40,000 students on charter school wait lists.

Utah State Charter School Board

Click here to view information about the Board and upcoming meetings.

For more information see:

• National Alliance for Public Charter Schools –
• Center for Educational Reform –

*Source: Utah Association of Public Charter Schools, Utah State Office of Education, California Association of Public Charter Schools and Center for Educational Reform