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 185,900 students attended 556 Arizona charter schools, an increase of over 10,000 students – or 5.9 percent – over the 2015-16 school year. That’s about 17 percent of Arizona’s public school students and 30 percent of public schools. By comparison, year-over-year enrollment in Arizona district schools declined. Find out more here.
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
Public charter school students continue to outperform their peers, as AzMERIT results show charter students scored better than the state average in virtually every grade level and subject area for the third straight year. Find out more here.
Arizona public charter schools are also top performers nationally. Charter students in Arizona 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 quality public school - district or charter.
The Education Evaluator is an easy transparent way to find and compare public schools - district and charter - in your neighborhood.
For three straight years, public charter school students scored better than the state average in virtually every grade level and subject area on AzMERIT.
Learn more about the laws and regulations that govern Arizona charter school admissions and enrollment policies and practices.
Arizona Charters Academically Exceeding
A Focus on Quality
Charter schools have been part of the fabric of Arizona’s public school landscape for over 20 years. They serve a diverse student population, and students across all demographics see higher outcomes when enrolled in charter schools. In fact, for the last three years, public charter students in all racial and ethnic groups outperformed the state average on AzMERIT for their group in Math and English.
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.