Charter schools open doors for families.

More than 3.7 million students attend a charter school across America. Add your email to learn more about how these unique public schools are changing education in Iowa.

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When given the choice familes choose charter schools.

The Charter School Model

Free. Public. Open to all.

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that accept all students and families who choose to enroll in them. In many cases, they are founded by people within the community who want to create options for families whose children may need something different.

The Charter School Environment

Charter schools are built around students

Because every charter school is founded for a different reason, they are all unique. Some charter schools have science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum or an agricultural focus, others use a Montessori learning model or a college-prep focus, and some are dual credit—offering college credit while in high school, and still others provide career training.

The Charter School Opportunity

Charter schools can educate anyone

Charter schools can serve children in any grade, from Pre-K to 12th, and some offer other programs like GED courses or classes for adults who didn’t have the opportunity to graduate high school earlier.

22 of the top 100 public high schools in America are charter schools.

US News and World Report, 2022 Rankings

Question 1 of 7

Do you have to pay to go to a public charter school?

No, charter schools are always tuition-free, public schools.

Charter schools, like all public schools, are tuition-free. However, it is important to understand why students do not have to pay to receive a high-quality education at a charter school. As public schools, charter schools are publicly funded by local, state, and federal tax dollars similar to district—or traditional—schools. This funding ensures that charter schools are free, public, and open to all.

Learn more about tuition-free public charter schools
Question 2 of 7

What is a public charter school lottery?

When charter schools have more students who want to attend than the seats available, they use a lottery system to determine their enrollment.

The charter school must hold a random drawing process, either handling the applications manually, or using a computer program.

Learn more about charter school lotteries
Question 3 of 7

Are charter schools public schools?

Yes, charter schools are always independently-operated, public schools that are open to all students.

Charter schools accept any student who applies to them, provided there is room. Charter schools are in high demand, so to play fair they have a lottery system that gives everyone an equal opportunity to get in. The best way to make sure all students have access to a high-quality public school that is right for them is to ensure that charter schools exist and are allowed to thrive.

Learn more about charter public schools
Question 4 of 7

Can anyone go to a charter school?

Yes, charter schools are open to all students.

They do not charge tuition or have admissions tests, making them accessible for all families. Like all public schools, anyone can go to a charter schools regardless of socio-economic background. In fact, charter schools serve a higher percentage of students from low-income backgrounds (60%) than district-run public schools (53%). Charter schools cannot discriminate against students based on their household incomes, race, gender, or academic backgrounds.

Learn more about charter school admissions
Question 5 of 7

Are charters schools for-profit?

No. Charter schools are always public schools, but some of the confusion is about how the schools are managed.

Most charter schools – 65% – handle everything themselves. About 26% rely on a nonprofit organization to help with things like payroll, human resources and building management. About 9% rely on a for-profit management company to help with things like this.

Learn more about how charter schools are managed
Question 6 of 7

Can public charter schools deny students?

No, charter schools enroll students on a first-come, first-served basis and additional students are placed on a wait list.

Regardless of a family's household income, religion, or ethnicity, charter schools exist to provide all students with a local high-quality school option. For many families, charter schools are a great fit. They provide children with another free, high-quality public school option.

Learn more about charter school admissions
Question 7 of 7

Do charter school students take the same state tests?

Yes, Iowa charter school students must take state tests, just like any public school students.

Iowa charter schools are subject to the same state academic standards and testing requirements. Charter schools, by law, must assess all public school students in reading and math.

Learn more about charter school testing

Charter schools work in communities everywhere.

Though much attention is placed on charter schools in urban settings, they aren't the only places where public charter schools can offer students a high-quality education. Take a look at how rural charter schools are effectively meeting the needs of the students in their communities.