What’s the Difference Between Charter Schools and Public Schools?

The number of charter schools in the U.S. has been on the rise and in the 2017-18 school year, more than 7,000 charter schools across the U.S. had 3.2 million students enrolled.  For many people, charter schools are considered “alternative” schools but what are they, really?  What’s the difference between charter schools and public schools?

First of all, charter schools are public schools. Any child can attend them just like traditional public schools and there is no tuition.  They can’t discriminate against students and they must provide classroom accommodations, some special education programs, IEPs and 504 Plans to students who need them.  They strive to give their students the best education possible and they are required to meet state education standards just like traditional public schools but there are a lot of differences.


Traditional public schools receive some state funding but they receive most of their funding through local taxes.  Charter schools receive state funding on a per-student basis but can also receive private funding, depending on the state.  Because they don’t use local taxes, charter schools don’t have to have their budgets voted on by the taxpayers.

Academic Standards

Traditional public schools have to strictly follow the standards set forth by the state board of education.  Their curriculum is determined by state education standards and the school districts which are run by democratically-elected school boards.  Charter schools generally have a more flexible curriculum but are still bound by the standards set forth in their charter.  A school’s charter is a set of rules and performance standards for which they are held accountable.  These are not the same for all charter schools and are usually established by teachers,  parents, and even the local school district.  A charter school can be shut down if it doesn’t follow the rules and standards of its charter.  Their flexibility can mean a more relaxed educational experience and they usually have smaller class sizes.  Like private schools, space may be limited and students may have to be admitted using a lottery system.

Teacher Certifications

In public schools, teachers generally are required to have a bachelor’s degree in education, state certification that requires training and testing, or be in the process of being certified.  For charter schools, educational requirements vary from state to state.  In Missouri, for example,  up to 20% of full-time teachers may be uncertified but must be supervised by licensed instructional personnel.

Just like traditional public schools, charter schools are dedicated to the education of children.  At Eagle College Preparatory Schools, we offer children of St. Louis a world-class education in a charter school setting.  With locations at Fox Park, Gravois Park, Tower Grove East and South, we give all students from kindergarten to 8th grade a safe, supportive, and loving environment for them to grow and thrive.  To enroll your child in one of our Eagle College Preparatory Schools locations, visit our website.  We’d love to have you join our school community!