Students in a USI chart schools classroom smile and make a peace sign at the camera

So, What’s a Charter School Anyway?

Published July 1, 2024

If you’re a parent, and you’re looking into schools for your kids, you’ve probably already looked into public and private schools. But there’s actually a third option that’s somewhere in between. We’re talking, of course, about charter schools. This article gives you a brief overview of charter schools and explains why they’re such a great option for so many families.

What’s a Charter School?

A charter school is basically a public school that has the freedom to operate like a private one. They’re “public” in the sense that they’re completely tuition-free, and they’re usually open to all students as long as there’s enough room. But they’re “private” in the sense that they’re independently run and have the freedom to innovate and use their own curricula.  

The Benefits of Charter Schools

Every charter school is a bit different, so the benefits will vary from school to school. United Schools of Indianapolis (US) is a system of three charter schools located in the most underserved areas of the city. The benefits of attending a USI school include the following:

  • Class Sizes – Public schools, as a general rule, have to accept every kid in their district who wants to attend, which means the class sizes can get pretty big. But charter schools, on the other hand, have the freedom to limit capacity. At USI, we keep class sizes small, so we can give your kids the individualized attention they deserve. 
  • Parental Involvement – Small classes are not only good for the student, they also make it easier to get the parents involved. At USI, we bend over backwards to include parents and make sure they’re a part of their kids’ education. We create an ongoing dialogue and make sure they know how to support the academic process from home. Students do better when their parents get involved. And we have the flexibility to make that involvement a priority.  
  • Additional Funding – Public schools are doing some really great work, but unfortunately, a lot of them are underfunded. USI, on the other hand, receives private donations in addition to public funding. Those donations help us give students the experience they need to thrive by allowing us to provide classrooms and students with the latest technology and attracting top-tier teachers and staff.
  • A Custom Experience – Public schools are teaching a mandatory curriculum that’s already been assigned by the school district. A charter school, however, has the freedom to develop their own curriculum as they see fit. At USI, we use a rigorous curriculum that’s specifically designed to serve the underserved, create a nurturing environment, prepare students for college, and close the achievement gap.   
  • The Best Teachers – Because public schools are on such a tight budget, they tend to have trouble competing for the best teachers. USI, on the other hand, has the funding to provide a competitive salary in addition to incredibly attractive benefits and bonuses. In fact, we just received a $12.5 million grant that will supplement our performance-based bonuses for the next 25 years! This means we’re able to compete for the best teachers in the area—all for the benefit of our students.
  • Tuition Free – Many charter schools draw comparisons to private schools. But there’s really no comparison, because private schools tend to be quite expensive, while charter schools are tuition free. That means charter schools can welcome any young scholar with open arms, no matter their economic situation, and give an elite education to the students who need one the most.
  • Increased Accountability – Charter schools have a lot of freedom, but they also need to show they can handle that freedom. That’s why they’re bound to very specific terms that are outlined in an agreement called a “charter” (hence the term “charter school”). If the school doesn’t deliver on those terms, they will be held accountable and, if things don’t improve, they will get shut down. This means charter schools are extremely motivated to deliver.

Is a Charter School Right for My Family?

Every parent needs to make this decision through the lens of their child’s specific needs. Could your child benefit from smaller class sizes? Do they live in an underserved community? Could they benefit from a more rigorous, customized curriculum? If yes, these are all really great reasons to consider a charter school. 

But which charter school should you choose? It’s important to look at each school on an individual basis, because they all have very different reputations, goals, and areas of focus. Are they getting results? Have they created a safe, supportive culture? Do they have the funding they need to achieve their goals? Be sure to do your own research and look before you leap. Because not all charter schools are created equally.    

Learn More About The United Schools of Indianapolis

At USI, we’re proud to offer a free, rigorous, college-preparatory education to the kids in Indianapolis who can most benefit from it. Preparing your children for a bright future is our passion, and we are committed to doing so in a safe, structured, supportive environment. Our K-8 schools are located on two campuses on the near east (Avondale) and near west (Riverside) sides of the city. Click the links below to learn more about us and our schools. And don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions! We’d love to have you as part of our family.