What is a charter school?
A charter school is an independent public school that operates independently of the district board of education. In effect, a charter school is a one-school public school district. A group of people — educators, parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs or others — write the charter plan describing the school’s guiding principles, governance structure, and applicable accountability measures. If the state approves the charter, the state funds the charter on a per pupil basis. In most cases charter schools operate under a clear agreement between the state and the school: increased autonomy in exchange for increased accountability. Because they are schools of choice, they are held to the highest level of accountability — consumer demand.
Why are charter schools so popular?

In Colorado alone there are over 40,000 students are on waiting lists to attend a charter public school.

Charter public school students are no different in academic background and motivation than students attending traditional public schools. Yet, accross the nation, well-run charter public schools tend to perform significantly better than traditional public schools based on a variety of indicators.

Public charters are less costly and more effective than reducing class size. The positive effect of going to an elementary charter school on math scores is more than four times greater than reducing class sizes by five students. (Center for Reinventing Public Education/University of Washington, 2008).

These and other other contributing factors shed light on a policy brief on public charter schools from the Washington Policy Center which concluded that charter public schools are significantly more popular with parents than traditional district-led schools.

The economic explanation for the popularity of charter schools is simple: as consumers (families) are given more choice, value tends to improve (quality goes up and price goes down).

Also, it is important to acknowledge that every student is unique and what is a good fit for one student may not be the best fit for another. It is healthy for students and families to gravitate to whichever school is the best fit for them at a given time.

How do charter schools differ from traditional district public schools?

Charter schools operate from 3 basic principles:

Accountability: Charter schools are held accountable for how well they educate children in a safe and responsible environment, not for compliance with district and state regulations. They are judged on how well they meet the student achievement goals established by their charter, and how well they manage the fiscal and operational responsibilities entrusted to them. Charter schools must operate lawfully and responsibly, with the highest regard for equity and excellence. If they fail to deliver, they are closed.
Choice: Parents, teachers, community groups, organizations, or individuals interested in creating a additional educational opportunities for children can start charter schools. Local and state school boards, colleges and universities, and other community agencies can sponsor them. Students choose to attend, and teachers choose to teach at charter schools.
Autonomy: Charter schools are freed from the traditional bureaucracy and regulations that some feel divert a school’s energy and resources toward compliance rather than excellence. Proponents of charter schools argue that instead of jumping through procedural hoops and over paperwork hurdles, educators can focus on setting and reaching high academic standards for their students.

Who can start a charter school?
Parents, community leaders, businesses, teachers, school districts, educational entrepreneurs, and municipalities can submit a charter school proposal to their state’s charter authorizing entity.
Do charter schools have admission policies? Can they pick who attends?
By law, charter schools must have a fair and open admission process, conducting outreach and recruitment to all segments of the community they serve. They are public schools and therefore cannot “choose” which students attend. Like other public schools, charter schools are nonsectarian and nondiscriminatory in admission and employment practices. Charter school students are admitted on a first-come, first served basis, or by lottery when applicants exceed available slots. No tuition may be charged.
Does Aspen View Academy enroll students with Special Needs?
Yes, Aspen View Academy has a robust special needs staff that serves many students with identified needs.  These students have Individualized Education Plans (IEP) that specify the additional services they need to access curriculum.  Per our agreement with Douglas County School District, some students with significant special needs will be placed in other schools, where center-based programs are specifically designed for certain student needs.  For a student with an IEP to be officially admitted to AVA, an “change of placement” meeting will need to take place to ensure proper services are delivered to the student, based on IEP identified needs.
How are charter schools funded?
Charter schools are public schools and like district public schools, they are funded according to enrollment (also called per pupil operating revenue, or PPOR), and receive funding from the district according to the number of students attending. Recent federal legislation provides funding to help charters with start-up costs, but the task remains imposing.
Do charter schools take money from public schools?
Charter schools are public schools. When a child leaves for a charter school the money follows that child. Proponents say this benefits the public school system by instilling a sense of accountability into the system regarding its services to the student and parents and its fiscal obligations.
What is the difference between charter schools and private school vouchers?
Voucher plans allow parents to use their tax dollars that would otherwise be used to educate their child in a public school and apply those dollars towards tuition at a private or religious school. These schools may charge some amount beyond the voucher and may not have to accept all applicants, depending on the voucher program guidelines. Charter schools, on the other hand, are public schools that allow parents to exercise an option to have their child educated at a school outside of the traditional district system. Charter schools must accept all students on first come-first served basis or by lottery and cannot charge tuition.
How do charter schools impact the public school system?
Charter schools provide a variety of services to children that arguably place healthy pressure on the district to provide equal or better services. In 2001 the U.S. Department of Education released a major study called The Impact of Charter Schools on School Districts. They reported that more than half of traditional districts created new educational programs in response to charter schools. Proponents maintain that charters schools also increase accountability in many districts.
Do charter schools work?
Every charter is different, and many of them are new. But their general success is consistent. An August 2001 report from the Center for Education Reform found that in 65 research studies done on charter schools, 61 found that charters overall provided innovative, accountable and successful.
When and where did the first charter school open?

The charter school movement has roots in a number of other education reform ideas, from alternative schools, to site-based management, magnet schools, public school choice, privatization, and community-parental empowerment. The term “charter” may have originated in the 1970s when New England educator Ray Budde suggested that small groups of teachers be given contracts or “charters” by their local school boards to explore new approaches. Albert Shanker, former president of the AFT, then publicized the idea, suggesting that local boards could charter an entire school with union and teacher approval. In the late 1980s Philadelphia started a number of schools-within-schools and called them “charters.” Some of them were schools of choice. The idea was further refined in Minnesota where charter schools were developed according to three basic values: opportunity, choice, and responsibility for results.

In 1991 Minnesota passed the first charter school law, with California following suit in 1992. By 1995, 19 states had signed laws allowing for the creation of charter schools, and by 2003 that number increased to 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Charter schools are one of the fastest growing innovations in education policy, enjoying broad bipartisan support from governors, state legislators, and past and present secretaries of education. In his 1997 State of the Union Address, former President Clinton called for the creation of 3,000 charter schools by the year 2002. In 2002, President Bush called for $200 million to support charter schools. His proposed budget called for another $100 million for a new Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities Program. Since 1994, the U.S. Department of Education has provided grants to support states’ charter school efforts, starting with $6 million in fiscal year 1995.