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Understanding What Makes Sacramento Charter Schools Unique

Updated: Aug 11, 2023


Sacramento Charter Schools

If you have a young child and are in the process of selecting an elementary school, you may have come across the term charter school. And if you’re anything like the rest of us, you have questions. You may be curious how attending a charter school differs from attending other types of schools, but find the information to be confusing. If you want to understand what makes a charter school a charter school so you can make the best choice to support your child’s educational future, you are in the right place. In this article, we’ll break down what a charter school is, how it differs from other types of schools, and why a charter school might be the best place for your child and family.


In this article:

  • How are charter schools similar and different from other types of schools?

  • What types of charter schools are there?

  • Where do charter schools get their funding to offer tuition-free education?

  • What is the process for accepting students in charter schools?

  • What is the relationship between school districts and charter schools?

  • How popular are charter schools in California?


How are charter schools similar and different from other types of schools?


Charter schools are a type of public school. And just like your public school down the street, charter schools are open to all students. Charter schools are designed to be inclusive. They accept all students who apply, and create a lottery system when the number of applications exceeds available slots. Charter schools are also funded by the government, which means that, like your local public school, your child’s education is tuition-free. Typically charter schools are smaller, community oriented and often offer a more personalized experience for the families.


A key difference is that charter schools have more flexibility with HOW the process of educating our young people takes place. Parents, organizations, and community groups can have input (or even lead the process of) how to restore, reinvent, and re-energize our public school system in ways that are not possible within a traditional structure. Independent charter schools are also governed by a non-profit board of directors, rather than an elected school board.


Charter schools differ from private schools in that private schools charge tuition, may have specific selection criteria, and may or may not have a religious affiliation.


According to GPS Founder David Richards, “Some people describe charter schools as being similar to a small community-oriented private school because they tend to be safe, small and nimble, yet are tuition-free so you get the best of both worlds.”


“At GPS, we take pride in the fact that our teachers are highly invested in the families, and that our students feel safe and loved while being held to high standards,” says GPS Executive Director Audria Johnson.


What types of charter schools are there?


There are two main types of charter school: dependent and independent. Dependent charter schools are considered a part of the local school district. Independent charter schools, on the other hand, are often authorized by the local school district but are free to implement their programming based on their unique mission, vision, and parent involvement. They also have their own Board of Directors.


GPS is an independent charter school with the autonomy to plan what they view as being best for the children in the school. GPS uses its autonomy by implementing unique programs like: project-based learning, social-emotional learning, self-directed learning and Explorations (which are immersive experiences provided during the school day by values-aligned community partners).


In addition, some charter schools are classroom-based, while others are nonclassroom-based, or a hybrid of the two. And some have a specific theme (STEM) or focus area (college readiness). As described above, the elements that distinguish GPS from other educational models include: project-based learning, social-emotional learning, self-directed learning, and Explorations.


What is the process for accepting students in charter schools?


As mentioned above, anyone can apply to attend a charter school. No preferences are given (although some charter schools–including GPS–do offer a preference to siblings and in-district students). However, in cases where the number of applications exceeds the number of available slots, a lottery is created, and a date is published to select the students and notify the families.


What is the relationship between school districts and charter schools?


In the case of independent charter schools like GPS, there is freedom to implement programming based on their unique mission, vision, and parent involvement. At GPS, we have our own Board of Directors and are relatively small, which means we can guarantee that your child will be a well-known member of our caring community. We see and know both our students and families.


How popular are charter schools in California?


The first charter schools were approved in California in 1992. As of the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, more than 1,300 charter schools (and seven all-charter districts) were operating across the state. This number makes up 11.7% of the total K-12 public education student population statewide.


In summary, attending a charter school like GPS can offer the following benefits:


  • Tuition-free enrollment

  • Personalized learning

  • Small, safe, connected learning community

  • Nimble infrastructure that allows for real-time adjustments

  • Flexibility to implement programming to meet the needs of the population being served


Think a Sacramento charter school might be right for your family? We’d love to get to know you.


Reach out today to schedule a tour or enroll.


According to the California Department of Education: https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/ch/cefcharterschools.asp.


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