Iowa Coalition for Public Charter Schools

FAQs on Charters

Frequently Asked Questions

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that accept all students and families who choose to enroll in them.  In many cases, they are founded by people within the community who want to create options for families whose children may need something different.

Because every charter school is founded for a different reason, they are all unique. Some charter schools have STEM curriculum or an agricultural focus, others use a Montessori learning model or a college-prep focus, and some are dual credit—offering college credit while in high school, and still others provide career training. Charter schools can serve children in any grade, from Pre-K to 12th, and some offer other programs like GED courses or classes for adults who didn’t have the opportunity to graduate high school earlier.

Click on each question below to reveal the answer.


Are charter schools public schools?

Yes, charter schools are always independently-operated, public schools that are open to all students. Learn more.


Do you have to pay to go to a public charter school?

No, charter schools are always tuition-free, public schools. Learn more.


Can anyone go to a public charter school?

Yes, charter schools are open to all students. They do not charge tuition or have admissions tests, making them accessible for all families. Learn more.


What is a public charter school lottery?

When charter schools have more students who want to attend than the seats available, they use a lottery system to determine their enrollment. The charter school hold a random drawing process, either handling the applications manually, or using a computer program. Learn more.


Can public charter schools deny students?

No, charter schools enroll students on a first-come, first-served basis and additional students are placed on a wait list. Regardless of a family’s household income, religion, or ethnicity, charter schools exist to provide all students with a local high-quality school option. Learn more.


Do public charter school students have to take the same state tests as other public schools?

Yes, Iowa charter schools are subject to the same state academic standards and testing requirements. Charter schools, by law, must assess all public school students in reading and math. Learn more.


Are public charter schools for-profit organizations?

No, but some of the confusion is about management organizations that some charter schools contract with. While 62% of charter schools are managed independently—meaning they are a single-site school and manage all their own operations—29% of schools are managed by nonprofit management organizations and 9% are run by organizations with a for-profit tax status. Arizona and California are the only states that allow a management organization to hold the actual charter and less than 5% of charter schools in those states operate that way. Learn more.


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