Charter Schools versus Public Schools

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Training is a fundamental requirement that provides children with the skills they need to earn a living and excel in today's challenging environment. It is the duty of parents and grandparents to ensure that their children get the best education possible and train them for the future. However, owing to the high costs involved with schooling in private schools, not every parent can afford to admit their children to private institutions. In order to ensure that all children had access to educational services, the government founded public and charter schools. Public schools are government-owned institutions that are required by the local and federal government to offer educational services to children at all levels from kindergarten to college. On the other hand, charter schools are government funded institutions that are privately run. However, the two institutions are often confused since most people fail to understand the specific differences. Therefore, the paper shall aim to shed more light on the debate regarding public versus charter schools and consequently prove that although the institutions may appear similar, they are completely different in many aspects with each having its own advantages and challenges as well.

Government Ownership vs. Private Management

To begin with, Public schools are institutions that are owned, funded and managed by the government. This implies that the government is the primary stakeholder when it comes to running the schools as it determines the purpose, budget and the management of the institutions. Public schools have little to no autonomy, more so in regards to management and are all similar in depending on the type and level of education offered. However, Charter schools, as mentioned earlier, are funded by the government but managed and run as a private institution (Berends 165). Therefore, the influence of the government is minimal in charter schools as it only provides the financial assistance required to run the schools. Unlike public schools, charter schools have increased autonomy; especially in their management as they are not required by law to maintain a uniform type of curriculum and can also receive different forms of assistance, whether financial or facility assistance from various sponsors.

Admission Process

Apart from funding, another difference between the two types of schools is the admission process. Public schools are required by law to accept all children living within the school district (Berliner and Gene 50). In other words, public schools have no rights to reject children or students living within the immediate district. Contrastingly, charter schools are structured differently as they require student regardless of their respective locations to apply for admission (Berliner and Gene 51). Therefore, unlike public schools, charter schools do not have an automatic admission of preferences by location. This serves to prove that although charter schools act as the alternatives to public schools, they are not subjected to the regulations and rules that apply to public schools.

Curriculum and Education Patterns

In addition to charter schools having the right to admission, they also have a unique set of curriculums that are institution specific. To explain further, charter schools derive their name from the word ‘chart’ which implies they are charted out of similar education goals. Therefore, the curriculum in charter schools varies from institution to institution depending on the goals of the respective charter school. Charter schools have special and tailor-made curriculums in different fields such as technology, mathematics, arts as they offer personalized education to students. However, the curriculum is completely different in regards to public schools. To explain further, public schools have restricted autonomy, more so when it comes to education patterns and the curriculum. Since all public schools are governed by a similar system, they are expected to uphold a uniform standard of education to ensure all students in the institutions receive fair opportunities (Buras). The uniformity in public schools enhances equality, more so when it comes to joining higher learning institutions since students will sit for similar examinations based on their uniform curriculum. The autonomy that charter schools have makes it possible for management to influence a specific or desired type of culture within the institutional boundaries. This is not the case in public schools which are required by law to observe all uniformity protocols.

Class Sizes and Teacher-Student Ratios

Charter schools have greater camaraderie due to the close-knit characteristics of the charter system. A basic feature of charter schools is their smaller class sizes which allow for appropriate teacher-student ratios. Consequently, this enhances the quality of education making it possible for a student to interact freely with their teachers. The small number of students in charter schools make it possible for teachers to specialize in their respective fields of profession (Green, Bruce and Oluwole, 300). However, the open admission to public schools leads to unfavorable student-teacher ratios due to the high population of students within the school district. This explains why charter schools are significantly smaller in size as compared to public schools which offer schooling opportunities without reliance on the lottery system.


Another difference between the two types of academic institutions is administration. Charter schools are managed privately by school boards as well as directors guided by the authorizing jurisdictions. What is more, the charter school administration system is not constant and varies from institution to institution depending on location and the policies of the respective state governments (Green, Bruce and Oluwole, 300). On the other hand, public schools are managed by school boards and school districts under the supervision and guidance of state-specific education departments. However, it is essential to note that both institutions including charter schools are expected to observe legal guidelines that determine America educational standards.

Extracurricular Activities

When it comes to extracurricular activities, Public schools have more opportunities due to their large sizes and focus on all-rounded growth. The large population of students in public schools ensures all children develop positive social traits from tender ages. Additionally, public schools are highly appropriate for various education-related activities such as clubs, after-school sessions, sports, and even community service which play crucial roles in expanding the boundaries of the students. Thus, public schools are efficient in the preparation of students for college life. Contrastingly, charter schools have fewer social opportunities in regards to sports or extracurricular opportunities. This is because almost all charter schools focus on providing specialized education to the student. The focus on education limits the all-round development of the children as the increased focus on education compromises the extracurricular aspect of education.

Purpose of the Schools

Another difference that exists between the two academic institutions is the purpose of the schools. Charter schools are formed with the purpose of providing an alternative system of education to the students (Henig, 26). This is done through the creation of alternative or school-specific learning philosophies that aim to enhance the quality of education accorded to the students. Public schools are usually established due to the government's responsibility to the people. Thus, the public schools are meant to ensure that all American children can access education freely and with ease. Budget money set aside for education by the government is usually invested in public schools to ensure that all the districts have enough schools to facilitate effective learning throughout. Public schools are therefore more of a government's duty as it has to ensure that all American children have access to quality education.

Access to Educational Resources

Students from charter schools have greater access to educational resources. As mentioned earlier, charter schools have significantly lesser student population as compared to their public counterparts. Therefore, this implies that there will be no strain for educational material as well as most library material will be available due to the small numbers. As a result of the increased access to study materials, the students in Charter schools have increased chances of succeeding in their respective subjects since they have access to numerous resources. Public schools are often short on school resources, which explain their rigorous planning processes that aim to ensure learning continues despite a shortage of resources such as course books in the library (Henig, 26). In the long run, students in public schools are forced to make use of alternative resources or increase their group studies to ensure available resources are used effectively.

Teacher Creativity and Employment

Charter schools allow teachers to be creative in their work. In charter schools, teachers have the right to modify their classes and teaching techniques to suit the specific needs of children. This ensures that children receive necessary attention from teachers. Additionally, parent-teacher relationships in charter schools are dynamic and healthy due to close interaction between teachers with students. Teachers can note even the slight changes in student behavior and can easily notify parents due to the free-flowing communication channels available in Charter schools. In contrast, teachers in public schools have limited freedom. Although they can modify their teaching techniques to improve the learning experience, they cannot change much regarding study processes. Syllabuses must be completed in a timely fashion to allow for examinations to take place. What is more, teachers in public schools tend to have strained relationships with their students due to the poor attitudes that students develop as a result of monotonous teaching techniques. It is highly difficult for teachers in public schools to monitor student behavior as they barely interact after classes.

Sustainability and Closure

Charter schools can be easily closed if they fail to achieve or maintain high standards of sustainable education. That is, charter schools that fail to record positive outcomes over a specified duration are highly likely to be closed due to the perception that they are a waste of public resources. Therefore, stakeholders in charter schools are often under pressure to maintain a high level of performance to avoid being commissioned to shut down. There are three key elements that charter schools must work hard to maintain; the first is a high level of performance. Secondly, charter schools must retain the required number of students, and lastly, they must operate under the allocated finances (Henig, 30). Failure to observe any of the above requisites might lead to the closure of the institutions. In contrast, public schools are free from the pressure of termination or closure. This is because, as mentioned earlier, the federal and state government must offer accessible education without compromise. Thus, the closure of public schools is a highly unlikely occurrence due to the significance the schools have in aiding the government to achieve its education goals. Moreover, the fact that public schools have large student populations and are located per American district means it will be highly inappropriate and complicated to close down the schools. This explains why most public schools have been in existence for generations.

Financial Advantages and Teacher Recruitment

Public schools have numerous financial advantages due to their complete ownership and management by the government. For instance, children with brilliant performances in extracurricular activities have increased chances of obtaining scholarships. Further, students in public school have the privilege of free transportation to and from school. However, students in charter institutions have fairly limited opportunities once their time at the school comes to an end. Students from charter schools barely have perks or incentives in the form of scholarships since their system does not actively support and advocate for extracurricular activities. Moreover, parents have the responsibility to organize their children's transportation to and from the charter schools.

Charter schools have flexible teacher recruitment policies. To expound further, the employment and termination of teachers depend on the specific charter school and its policies. Some charter schools are strict in their requirements and consequently demand high qualifications, more so in specialized fields (Wei, Deepa and Viki). However, some have the basic requirements similar to those in public schools. Exemptions can be made depending on the applicant and the policies of the charter school. On the other hand, public schools have strict requirements that are uniform throughout all public schools. Teachers are employed based on their proficiency in their area of specification. Teachers with higher credentials are likely to be appointed over lesser-experienced teachers. Moreover, it is slightly more difficult for teachers in public schools to lose their jobs due to uniform rules and regulations that are similar in all districts. Charter schools are often more demanding in regards to interpersonal relationships, PR, and ability to work as part of a larger and committed team. Teachers who fail to meet the requirements of charter schools are likely to lose their jobs considering charter schools have little to no margin for error. Therefore, this influences their employment strategies, unlike public schools, which are highly unlikely to be closed if due to underperformance.


In conclusion, despite the similarities that public and charted schools share, they have numerous differences that distinguish them. Public schools are both run and managed by the government while charter schools are only funded by the government but allowed to be managed privately. As a result of this, charter schools have more autonomy such that they can determine their curriculums, teaching practices, and even school-based culture. When it comes to admission, students in the school district of the respective public school are eligible for admission without any restriction. Charter schools require interested parties to apply as it attempts to manage the numbers. Additionally, charter schools have the freedom to select and determine their respective curriculums, which can differ from institution to institution; contrastingly, public schools have no freedom in regards to their curriculum as they are expected to meet the federal requirements of equality and uniformity. Thus, in as much as charter and public schools are part of the American public education system, they are entirely different institutions that are run and managed differently.

Works Cited

Berliner, David C., and Gene V. Glass, eds. 50 myths and lies that threaten America's public schools: The real crisis in education. Teachers College Press, 2014.

Berends, Mark. "Sociology and school choice: What we know after two decades of charter schools." Annual Review of Sociology 41 (2015): 159-180.

Buras, Kristen L. Charter schools, race, and urban space: Where the market meets grassroots resistance. Routledge, 2014.

Green III, Preston C., Bruce D. Baker, and Jospeh O. Oluwole. "Having it both ways: How charter schools try to obtain funding of public schools and the autonomy of private schools." Emory LJ 63 (2013): 303.

Henig, Jeffrey R. "Charter Schools and Democratic Accountability." State Education Standard 17.1 (2017): 26.

Wei, Xin, Deepa Patel, and Viki M. Young. "Opening the “black box”: Organizational differences between charter schools and traditional public schools." Education Policy Analysis Archives/Archivos Analíticos de Políticas Educativas 22 (2014).

October 19, 2022

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