The Pros and Cons of Working at Charter School (Plus FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

October 14, 2021

Charter schools can be great opportunities for teachers to inspire students to gain a passion for lifelong learning. While charter schools are similar to public district schools in various ways, there are a few key differences between these educational institutions. If you're interested in becoming a teacher at a charter school, you could benefit from exploring how this type of school works. In this article, we discuss the definition of a charter school, explain the pros and cons of teaching at this kind of educational institution and answer some frequently asked questions about the topic.

What is a charter school?

A charter school is an educational institution that has a charter or contract with an authorizing organization, like a state government agency, university or school district. Although the charter school gets exemption from certain state laws and regulations for operating public schools in its contract, it also has to fulfill specific requirements for accountability and academic performance. The contract typically outlines the school's mission, educational targets and fiscal guidelines. The authorizing organization approves this "charter bargain" and ensures a school fulfills the contract terms.

Charter schools are educational institutions that receive public funds but operate more independently than conventional public district schools. They also offer open admission to students and are tuition-free, unlike private schools. While charter students take the same assessments as those attending public district schools, the regulations and funding of charter schools vary greatly based on state law. Typically, the purpose of charter schools is to provide educators with the freedom to innovate in curriculum, teaching methods and lesson activities.

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Pros and cons of teaching at a charter school

By examining multiple aspects of the position, you can determine whether a job as a charter school teacher is right for you. Here are some pros and cons of teaching at this kind of institution:

Pros of teaching at a charter school

Teaching at a charter school can be an exciting, rewarding career path for many candidates. Here are some benefits of pursuing this role:

  • Freedom in the classroom: Charter schools often have a focus on implementing imaginative techniques to support students effectively. For example, teachers may have more freedom to assist special education or at-risk students in reaching their potentials.

  • Academic excellence: Many charter schools enable students to perform excellently in math, reading and other class subjects. Student performance can vary based on factors like funding and state regulations.

  • Positive relationships with parents: As many parents choose to send their children to charter schools, they often have an appreciative outlook on the efforts of charter school teachers. Educators can work with parents to design curriculum and implement methods that are good for all students.

Cons of teaching at a charter school

There are multiple aspects to consider when selecting any job, including that of a charter school teacher. Here are some potential obstacles to this position:

  • Controversies: As an unconventional alternative to the traditional choice of public school, charter schools can be the subject of debate among students, parents, educators and administrators. Maintaining strength in your beliefs and expressing your enthusiasm for supporting student learning can help you have productive conversations with others.

  • Long work hours: While not necessarily unique to charter schools, teachers at this institution may work long hours, especially in their first year. Taking breaks and making time for self-care can help reduce stress and increase job satisfaction.

  • Strict charter terms: While charter schools may have the same obstacles as other educational institutions, it can be challenging to fulfill contract terms. However, with the right staff and management, charter schools can succeed.

Frequently asked questions about working at a charter school

If you're interested in joining the educational field, exploring the job of a charter school teacher can be a great way to develop your career plans. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the topic:

What is it like working in a charter school?

At a charter school, teachers typically have more flexibility when it comes to meeting student needs. While they abide by the same state academic standards as public schools, they often provide unique curriculum and classroom approaches. Some innovative techniques a charter school might use include:

  • Inquiry, experiential and project-based learning

  • Self-guided learning and independent study

  • Community-based learning

Related: 8 Ways To Teach Experiential Learning

Do teachers at charter schools get paid less?

Teachers at charter schools don't necessarily get paid less than teachers at public institutions. Both types of professionals perform similar job duties and earn similar salaries. The national average salary for a teacher is $23,868 per year. Typically, the more experience and credentials you have, the higher your salary may be. Many charter schools require their teachers to earn certifications in the field. Certifications, in general, typically make candidates more qualified for jobs and may increase their earning potentials.

Related: 10 Steps You Can Take To Make More Money as a Teacher

What is a magnet school vs. a charter school?

A magnet school is a public educational institution specializing in a certain area, such as math, science or performing arts. Focusing on an area of interest attracts talented students and encourages high levels of achievement. Magnet schools are typically more competitive and smaller than charter schools and can only accept a small portion of student applicants. In contrast to open admission for charter schools, magnet schools often administer entrance examinations and conduct interviews before admitting candidates.

What funding do charter schools receive?

Charter schools usually receive funding from local, state and federal sources based on the number of students in enrollment. They may also receive funds through partnerships with private organizations and government or private grants. Just like public and private schools, charter schools can also raise money by seeking philanthropic donations.

Related: What Is the Difference Between Public and Private Teacher Salaries?

Who's in charge of charter schools?

Typically, charter schools have a school leader or principal in charge of the daily operations of the institution. This leader may collaborate with an appointed board to oversee the proper management of the school. Unlike public schools, charter schools are accountable to an authorizing agency by contract, a group that decides whether the school can remain operational. This kind of group may be:

  • Independent chartering board

  • State education agencies

  • Higher educational institutions

  • Government departments

  • Nonprofit charter management organizations (CMOs)

  • For-profit education management organizations (EMOs)

  • Local school districts and boards

Are charter schools public or private schools?

Some people debate whether charter schools are public or private, as the operation of charter schools can vary by state and the definition of a public school can be subjective. Many people define public schools as those with an elected school board, public funding and open admissions. In contrast, private schools receive funding from private organizations or individuals, rather than the government. While charter schools receive public funding and provide open admissions, they may not be accountable to a school board. Instead, they might contract with an independent chartering board or university.

Who can enroll in charter schools?

As charter schools offer open enrollment, families can choose to send their students to charter schools in their school divisions. They typically fill out and submit an application, providing identification information. If there's too much demand for enrollment, the school may pick students using a randomized lottery system.

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