The Basics & FAQ


Charter schools are public schools of choice that are tuition-free and open to all. They are growing rapidly in response to demand from families.

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Why Start a Charter School?

Parents, educators and community members decide to start charter schools for a variety of reasons. Some start schools to address the needs of an under-served population, to create a new option in their community that serves students differently, or to innovate and find new ways of educating students that will forever change the way they learn. As a charter school developer, you will join a community of transformational leaders across the state of California who are bringing new schools to their communities at the rate of over 100 schools each year.

According to Sascha Robinett, co-founder of PUC Milagro in Los Angeles, "At a charter school, you're allowed to be an innovator and that makes all the difference for your kids." In this video, Sascha shares why starting a charter school was a dream come true.

Frequently Asked Questions and Common Myths

There are many misconceptions about charter schools. Take a few minutes and review some of the prevalent myths about charters, and the truths that counter them. Our list of Frequently Asked Questions is another terrific starting point. If you still want to learn more after reviewing these resources, contact your regional representative and set up time to talk.

How CCSA Can Help You Start a Charter School

The California Charter Schools Association is here to help. Visit the CCSA Events Calendar to register for our three-part online workshop series, How to Start a Charter School. The series covers information on how to start a charter school, how to build a team, and provides an overview of the elements that should be included in your charter petition.

CCSA Charter Developer Membership

With Charter Developer Membership , CCSA provides individualized supports as well as resources and tools specifically crafted for charter developers in each phase of the development process. CCSA's developer supports include:

Join as a Charter Developer Member today and connect with a School Development representative in your region who can provide local expertise and hands-on assistance as you begin the development process.

North Coast and Bay Area
Judy Wilson, Director, School Development & Support
(917) 836-5738
Helen Wang, Manager, School Development
(916) 448-0995, ext 433

Greater Los Angeles
Josue Cofresi, Manager, School Development
(347) 853-9800

Central Valley
Michelle Murphy, Manager, School Development
(916) 448-0995, ext 375

Romel Antoine, Manager, School Development
(916) 584-0064

Southern California
Jennifer Reiter-Cook, Director, School Development
(866) 411-2272, ext 503

Charter School Growth in California

Charter Schools Are Growing Rapidly in California

Since California approved the Charter School Act in 1992, the charter school movement has seen rapid growth. During the 2013-14 school year alone there were 104 new charter schools that opened across the state. These new charters accounted for an estimated increase in enrollment of 49,000 students. As of 2013, California has the highest number of charter schools of any state in the country, with 1,130 schools serving more than 514,000 students. Despite this growth, CCSA estimates that there are 50,000 students on charter school waiting lists as of the 2013-14 school year, underscoring the need for additional excellent charter schools.


Number of Charter Schools Located in Major Districts*

Note: Beginning in 2010-11, the number of schools is counted by physical location of the school rather than by authorizer. Source: CDE data, California Charter School Association analysis conducted in fall 2012

  • Find more details, including charter school performance by region, in our Fact Sheets
  • You can also learn more about charter school performance in our statewide report, Portrait of the Movement

Charter Schools Educate Over 2 Million Students Across the Country

Charter schools represent a large proportion of the national education landscape. California continues to lead the nation in number of students attending charter schools by state. Nationally, more than 2.5 million students are currently enrolled in charter schools across the country according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.


California's charter school movement has seen rapid growth since its inception. Of the estimated 2.5 million students enrolled in charter schools nationally, California serves approximately 514,000 students. This means that over 20 percent of the students being served by charter schools nationally are receiving their education in California.



For more information on Charter Growth in California, download CCSA's Portrait of the Movement 2013 Report - School Growth.

California Education Code & Charter Schools

Intent of the Law

When lawmakers passed the Charter Schools Act of 1992, California became the second state in the country (after Minnesota) to enact charter school legislation. The intent was, as the Act states:" provide opportunities for teachers, parents, pupils, and community members to establish and maintain schools that operate independently from the existing school district structure..."

The Charter Schools Act outlined seven goals:

(a) Improve pupil learning.
(b) Increase learning opportunities for all pupils, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for pupils who are identified as academically low achieving.
(c) Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods.
(d) Create new professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the school site.
(e) Provide parents and pupils with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system.
(f) Hold the schools established under this part accountable for meeting measurable pupil outcomes, and provide the schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems.
(g) Provide vigorous competition within the public school system to stimulate continual improvements in all public schools.

Source: Education Code Section 47601(a)-(g)

The Intent of the Act is further illustrated in California Education Code Section 47605(b), which states:

"In reviewing petitions for the establishment of charter schools pursuant to this section, the chartering authority shall be guided by the intent of the Legislature that charter schools are and should become an integral part of the California educational system and that establishment of charter schools should be encouraged."

Source: Education Code Section 47605(b)

Charter Law: Education Code

Following the Legislature's intent to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability, charters are exempt from many elements of California Education Code under what is commonly referred to as the "Charter mega-waiver." With a few exceptions, charters are bound only by Part 26.8 of the Education Code which covers the establishment and operations of charter schools.

One of your first steps in starting a charter school will be getting familiar with applicable laws and regulations.

California education code and regulations governing charter schools can be found in the "Compilation of Selected Laws and Regulations Applicable to Charter Schools," produced annually in partnership with Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP.

School Accountability

Part of the promise of charter schools is that they offer high-quality alternatives to traditional options. Read about CCSA's ongoing accountability work to ensure all students in charter schools are receiving an excellent public education.

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