A charter school is a tuition-free public school that is governed by an independent board and held accountable to the state through a legally-binding agreement called a charter. In addition to outlining state and local rules and performance standards, these individual school charters provide schools with the flexibility to tailor academic focus and the autonomy to create innovative curricula and teaching modalities.
In other words, charter schools give students and parents more choices within the public school framework for families who don’t have the desire or means to attend private schools or engage in homeschooling. Lumen Scholar Institute is unique among Utah charter schools in that it saw a need for a statewide online charter school well before virtual learning became commonplace during the pandemic.
How do charter schools differ from public schools?
According to the Utah State Board of Education, “A public school is defined as a school that is open to the public, funded by the public, and accountable to the public.” Charter schools fit these three core criteria to be considered public schools. Aside from those characteristics, charter schools differ from public schools in a number of academic and structural ways.
Unlike other public schools, students do not have to live within the school district or a school’s boundaries in order to attend a charter school. For online charter schools like Lumen, that means students from anywhere in Utah can attend, no matter which district they reside.
Autonomous Learning Environments
Charter school teachers and students are encouraged to bend the mold and try out new, innovative learning techniques to find the best fit for each classroom and student. Teachers have the flexibility to tailor the curriculum to meet students where they are and help them succeed both inside and outside the classroom.
Many charter schools have a core academic focus in which curriculum is centered – math and sciences, art and music, technology and innovation, or online education, for example. These focuses give students with specific interests the opportunity to immerse themselves in related courses.
This is one key area in which charter schools do not differ from other public schools – charter school teachers are licensed, professional educators.
How are charter schools funded?
As an online charter school, Lumen provides everything our students need to succeed – including computers, iPads, learning materials, musical instruments, lab supplies, etc. – at no cost to families. Learning this, many parents ask, “How are charter schools free?”
In Utah, state funds for education follow the student, not the school. Per the Utah State Charter School Board, charter schools:
- Receive appropriate portions of local educational funding from the school district in which the charter school student resides and
- Can apply for state and federal start-up funds.
Additionally, charter schools are prohibited from charging tuition or requiring donations from students or parents and they’re subject to the same school fee regulations as every other public school in the state.
How do you apply to a charter school?
The application process for charter schools varies depending upon each institution’s enrollment procedures. Open enrollment periods before each semester are standard practice, though many accept online applications year-round. Some charter schools may require transcripts and other student information to complete the application process, so it’s important to check school requirements before applying.
When it comes to accepting students, most charter schools rely on a lottery system to determine which students they will admit every semester. While the enrollment lottery is random, charter schools are allowed to provide preferential enrollment that is consistent with applicable state laws (i.e. children of faculty and staff, siblings of currently enrolled students, etc.). A waiting list is typically available to the students who do not win the lottery, and future openings are filled by students on the waitlist.
If you have more questions about charter schools or Lumen Scholar Institute, please contact us today.