Charter School Vs. Public School: 11 Differences You Need To Know

Many get confused between the charter school and the public school; they consider both as similar. And yes! In many ways, both are very similar to each other. 

They are similar while providing free education to all who get admitted to their school. They don't give admission based on any entrance exam. Both schools are accountable for taking the state test and must participate in a federal accountability program

Although, these don't make both of them totally similar. There are many differences between both of these school types, from their definition to the objectives. In this blog, we'll see all the 11 significant differences between charter schools and public schools. But before moving forward, let's take an overview of both school types.

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. 

A charter school is the 'charter' or contract itself with an agency - usually a non-profit or government agency, based on which it's setup. 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. All states in the USA have public schools that offer free education. Taxes fund these schools. 

All the public schools are in a strict curriculum. The school district regulates the whole school, and the curriculum gets tailored as per state education standards.

These schools are accountable to the state education board and should follow all laws regarding education.

The schooling structure in the USA is of three levels:

But what is the Difference between Charter schools and Public Schools?


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 where a student admission could get denied 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 not so complicated and a five-finger exercise.


Charter school funding depends on the number of students in the school, so the school receives limited funding? Charter school receives funding from donations, state tax income, awards, grants.

On the other hand, Public school funding is from the federal government, state government, and local government, basically from taxes. Unlike CharterCharter, it's not linked to the number of students in the school. Hence, Public school often gets more funding. 

Study Program Flexibility

A Charter school is more flexible since it gets governed by a private board and has to ensure that it is loyal to the 'charter.' 

Since a Charter school is self-governed rather than answerable to the state, local, and federal laws, it is less stringent but has to ensure that it adheres to the Charter. Non-fulfillment 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 carefully controlled and follow the curriculum.

Teacher's Certification

The teacher's certification may or may not be an essential factor when it comes to a charter school. It is not always necessary that the teacher in Charter needs a certificate. It differs from state to state.

However, it is compulsory for teachers in Public schools that he/she needs certification from the state education board.


A Charter school is a setup to offer something more than what a Public school provides. So while the 'charter' of each Charter school will differ, they aim to provide education where the study program and ideology are unique.

A Public school aims to offer education to the community's children by utilizing the school's taxes. 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 given. 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 convey 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. The school is like one big family with seniors helping juniors. It allows students to form a friendship that is real and long-lasting. The facilities in a charter school are less compared to the public school. 

The public school has a higher amount of students studying. They may help a student make more friends. There are lots of facilities for public schools facilities which may help in a better social 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 willing and eligible student's needs.


Charter schools are present in almost all 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. See the pros and cons and think long-term as the school your child studies in will shape his future.