Policy Documents

Debunking the Myths About Charter Public Schools

Cara Stillings Candal –
January 4, 2010







Charter public schools have existed in Massachusetts since 1995, after enabling legislation was included in the landmark Massachusetts Education Reform Act (MERA) of 1993. Originally conceived as laboratories for educational innovation

1 that could offer choice for families and competition for traditional district schools, charters are public schools that may not discriminate as to whom they accept. In fact, aside from their often superior levels of academic achievement2 

, charter public schools differ from their district counterparts in only one major way: they enjoy some freedoms and autonomies that district schools do not in exchange for being subject to additional accountability requirements. 

In Massachusetts, any group or individual can apply to establish and run a charter public school.



3 Charters are authorized by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), and if the BESE approves an application for a charter school, the school is established based upon a contract, or charter, which outlines its performance goals and the standards to which it will be held. 4 Once established, all charter public schools in Massachusetts are subject to a review by the authorizer, which takes place at least once every five years. If, during that review, it is found that a charter public school is not meeting the terms of its charter or failing to live up to requirements for academic progress set by the state and federal governments, the authorizer may close the school.5  

These are the additional accountability requirements to which charter public schools are held.