About Charter Schools
Charter schools are public schools that are innovative while still being held accountable for improved student achievement. Charter schools are funded by the state and free to all Arizona students. They vary in mission and model, serving a wide range of students. In the 2016-17 school year, a record 180,000 students attend 547 Arizona charter schools, an increase of nearly 10,000 students – or 5.8 percent – over the 2015-16 school year. That’s about 16 percent of students and 30 percent of public schools. By comparison, year-over-year enrollment in Arizona district schools grew by just 4,000 students – an uptick of less than half a percentage point.
Charter schools were authorized by the Arizona Legislature in 1994, and the first charters opened in 1995. Charter schools were established to give parents academic choices for their children and provide a learning environment to improve student achievement. Read our 20th Anniversary Report here.
Simply put, a charter is a contract to improve student achievement. Arizona laws provide public charter schools more autonomy in exchange for greater accountability for improved student achievement. Charter schools in Arizona can be authorized by the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, the Arizona Department of Education and Arizona universities and community colleges. These entities evaluate a charter school’s academic, fiscal and operational compliance. They hold charter schools accountable for students’ academic performance, compliance with state laws and management of public funding. Find Arizona’s education statutes here.
Learn More About Charter Schools
Recent data indicate that Arizona’s charter students outperformed nearly every other state on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress. On eighth grade mathematics, for instance, Arizona charter students scored in a statistical dead heat with Massachusetts, the highest scoring of the 50 states. However, charter students are funded, on average, $1,180 less than the average district student due to Arizona’s antiquated system of school finance. Independently run, publicly funded charter schools receive state funds based on student attendance (same as traditional public schools); however, they do not receive funds from local tax revenue. Find out more about how public school students are funded here.
This document, in English and Spanish, is a guide to help parents select a public school, regardless of whether it is a district school or a high quality charter school.
The Education Evaluator is an easy transparent way to find and compare public schools in your neighborhood. It's a useful tool that highlights Arizona's vibrant school choice culture.
Arizona’s charter students outperformed nearly every other state on the Nation's Report Card and exceeded the state average of students passing AzMERIT for the second straight year, according to 2016 data.
A Focus on Quality
Arizona Charters Academically Exceeding
Arizona not only has a large and diverse charter environment,
we increasingly have become more focused on quality. Data show that
Arizona charter students academically exceeded their state and national peers.
With negative headlines splashed across news outlets, the hard work of our K-12 teachers and leaders is sometimes overshadowed and forgotten. We want to change that. Our Charters Changing Lives campaign is a way to share the stories that are often overlooked: to recognize the efforts of our students, teachers, leaders and community members who dedicate their lives to ensuring student success. With 547 public charter schools serving over 180,000 student, charters play an integral role in shaping the lives of Arizona’s youth. We plan to share how Arizona’s charter schools are changing lives every day.