Know Difference Between Charter and Public School

Shobha Kadur

Difference between Charter and public school

So what is a Charter School and what is a Public school? It’s best to define and understand the difference between them to help you decide which is best suited for your child. 

What is a Charter School?

A charter school is independently run and open to all children to study for free. There is more freedom in running a charter school but the school is equally accountable for it. What is a charter school is the ‘charter’ or contract itself with an agency - usually a non-profit or government agency, based on which it is set up. The ‘charter’ outlines the school’s mission, instructional program, governance, personnel, finance, and student enrollment structure.

What is a Public School?

In the USA, a public school is state-run and controlled by federal, state and local laws. Every state in the USA has public schools that offer free education.

The schooling structure in the USA can be generally classified into three levels:

  • Elementary School - Kindergarten to Grade 5
  • Middle School - Grade 6 to Grade 8
  • High School - Grade 9 to Grade 12

But what is a Charter School compared to a Public School?


What is a Charter school admission merit is that there is no entrance exam. Parents have to submit applications during the enrollment period. In case the school receives more applications than the number of seats available, they adopt a random blind lottery procedure to allocate seats. Another instance when a student is denied admission is when he is not eligible for the applied grade or doesn’t have the necessary attendance.

Public school admission is easy. Simply living in the district qualifies a student to attend the school so a public school cannot deny admission to any applicant. The application process is uncomplicated and a five-finger exercise.


What is a Charter school funding is dependent on the number of students in the school so the funding received is limited. Funding is from state funds as well as private funds. 

Public school funding is from the federal government, state government, and local government which - basically from taxes. It is not linked to the number of students in the school so there is ample funding available. 

Study Program Flexibility

A Charter school is more flexible since it is governed by a private board and has to simply ensure that it is loyal to the ‘charter’. Since a Charter school is self-governed rather than being answerable to the state, local, and federal laws, it is less stringent but has to still ensure that it adheres to the charter. Non-fulfilment of the charter can even lead to the closure of the school in an extreme instance. 

A Public school has to follow the rules set down by the school districts that initiate the state law to ensure continuous and smooth flow of funding. So Public schools are scrupulously controlled and follow the curriculum to the T.


In some Charter schools, teachers need to be better qualified than their Public school counterparts in specialized subjects. But all Charter schools expect teachers to be qualified as per norms.

All Public school teachers must be qualified and accomplished in their core subjects and must be certified by the state education board.


A Charter school is set up to offer something more than what a Public school offers. So while the ‘charter’ of each Charter school will differ, each of them aims to offer education where the study program and ideology are unique.

A Public school aims to offer education to the children in the community by utilizing the taxes that fund the school. A public school’s sole aim is to impart education as per the rules set down by the law and nothing more.


What is a Charter school’s objective will define how education is imparted. A Charter school can either have the latest technology or have simplistic teaching aids. 

A Public school’s techno-savviness usually varies from one school to another, as there is no rule to be followed. A Public school may be either technologically modern or outdated.


A Charter school student will have to travel to school by his means. There is no school bus facility while a Public school student may be conveyed by the school’s transport.

Accreditation Agency

A Private Board accredits a Charter school while the State Board of Education accredits a Public school.

Social Life

A Charter school is comparatively smaller than a Public school so the whole school is like one big family with seniors helping juniors.

A Public school has more students on the rolls since a Public school has to admit any child who lives in the district and seeks admission. So students have the opportunity to interact with more people. Besides, clubs and community service groups and other extra-curricular activities will prepare students to deal with the demands of college life. 


Most Charter schools offer few opportunities to pursue sports so eligible students tend to join the nearest Public school teams.

Public schools have ample sports activities to cater to a willing and eligible student’s needs.


Charter schools are present in almost all the fifty states except Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Public schools are present across all fifty states.

So the dilemma for you as a parent may be which school to choose for your child. What is a Charter school offering against a Public school in your residential district will be the primary decider. Weigh the pros and cons and think long-term as the school your child studies in will shape his future.

To know more about Charter schools:

To find a Charter School in the USA:

Find the best Charter schools:

To find a Public School in the USA:

Find the best Public schools:



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