Magnet Schools vs. Charter Schools

With so many terms for different schools out there (private, public, charter, montessori, magnet...we could go on) it's easy for parents to get confused.

The experts at The Center for Education Reform break down the differences between two big ones: magnet schools and charter schools.

Get all the info you need below - and start your K-12 search today!

Magnet Schools

Magnet schools came on the scene in the 1960s and 1970s as a way to desegregate school systems.

Magnet schools are public schools that offer specialized curriculum and instructional approaches, such as technology, humanities or a science focus.

Magnet schools are schools of choice, but still must adhere to local and state education rules and regulations and are part of the public school bureaucratic system.

Enrollment is regulated to ensure school remains racially balanced - regulations can include admissions criteria (entrance exam, interview, audition), lottery system, or a certain percentage of seats set aside for various demographics or district residents.

Magnets can charge tuition and often do if the focus of the school is performing arts.

In 2008, there were 2,683 magnet schools located in 31 states, enrolling more than 2 million students.

Charter Schools

The first charter school opened in Minnesota in 1992 after the state law passed allowing them in the state.

Charter schools are innovative public schools that have freedom from many of the education laws and regulations regarding curriculum, personnel, budgeting, and teachers unions. They still must adhere to the same academic guidelines.

Charter schools are given these freedoms in exchange for meeting certain expectations in their contract or 'charter' with an authorizer - student achievement goals and rigorous managerial and fiscal standards must be met or else a charter school can be closed.

Enrollment is open to all students who wish to attend. Charter schools accept students on a first-come, first-serve basis and may conduct a lottery if demand is higher than supply. There can be NO admissions criteria.

Charter schools cannot charge tuition.

In 2009, there were 5,042 charter schools in 39 states and DC, serving 1.5 million students.

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