Charter School vs. Private School: What’s the Difference?

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


Are you looking for the best school for your kid? Are you stuck in choosing between a charter school and a public school? If yes, this is the right article for you. The charter school vs. public school debate is one that has lasted for decades. You can easily make the wrong choice for your kid if you don’t understand the scope of each. Charter schools are publicly funded but resemble private schools in their mode of operation. To help you make a choice, we’ve researched and written an article that’s information-filled. Read on to find everything you’ll need to know before choosing between a charter school and a private school.

What is a Charter School?What is a Charter School?

A charter school is an independently-operated public school that’s allowed the freedom to design classes according to students’ perceived needs. The operation of charter schools is typically based on a contract, which is called a charter. Different locations appoint different charter school authorities to oversee the contract that binds charter schools in that location. Hence, the possibility of having different operation schedules for different charter schools in different locations. The charter school authority may consist of anyone from government agencies to universities or even non-profit organizations. The charter authority will be in charge of holding chargers accountable for their contract terms (charter).

These days, the trend has changed, and we are now seeing more former teachers lead charter schools. These teachers typically see the charter school as a broader and more practical environment to apply the classroom skills they’ve acquired over time.

Most parents choose charter schools for reasons that are as unique as the students themselves. They are often choosing charter schools out of pure admiration of the strength and motivation that charter school teachers show. Other times, it’s because their children cannot cope with the challenges of public schools. Nonetheless, charter schools have always served as an option to public schools, and their ability to allow parents active involvement in their children’s educational development stands them out.

What Defines a Private School?

What Defines a Private School?

Otherwise known as independent schools, privately funded schools, non-governmental, or non-state schools, private schools are a type of school independent in its governance and finance. The main difference between this school and most other school types is the independence it enjoys from national, state, and local government interference. The scope of private school operation may differ across different regions. While it is simply a school in private ownership in some regions, it includes schools held by a trust or foundation in other regions. However, irrespective of region or definition, private schools are mainly characterized by their national or local government sponsorship independence.

Most parents of private school attendees take their kids there because of their dissatisfaction with the conditions of government-funded institutions. Other times, it’s because their kids can’t cope with how public schools are run. There’s an existing claim that students are selected into private schools based on different criteria. Some schools choose students based on academic prowess. Others use other criteria like religious background or expertise in certain non-academic fields.

The primary source of funding for private schools is tuition fees. Therefore, their tuition fees are usually higher than most other types of institutions. However, being independent of government sponsorship gives them the right to select their students based on any criteria of their choosing.

What are the Benefits of a Charter School vs. a Private School?

What are the Benefits of a Charter School vs. a Private School?

Most times, when parents decide to make the big move from public schools, the choices are limited to charter schools and private schools. At this point, it boils down to the benefits of one over another. Charter school advantages are almost limitless and can influence a parent’s choice.  Remember that benefits can differ based on location. However, some of the general benefits that may stand charter schools out from private schools include:

Charter schools are designed to fit your child’s unique needs without charging you an arm

When it comes to choosing what’s right for your kid, it’s always about what will meet their unique needs. Unfortunately, most families fund the nearest public schools to them either under-performing or unsuited to the kids’ unique needs. Over time, families have had minimal options, and they’ve mostly had to stick to costly private schools. However, the popularity of charter schools means that parents now have a free alternative to consider. This gives them a more significant opportunity to enroll in schools that will suit their kids’ educational and emotional needs without needing to spend too much.

Charter schools help your child excel with a more rigorous curriculum

Like private schools, charter schools are given significant freedom in designing and managing their curriculum. However, they are typically held to a higher standard than most private schools. Being publicly-funded means that they must follow most of the regulations that apply to public schools. However, they are also held accountable by the charter guiding their existence. Failing to meet academic expectations can lead to decreased enrollment, low parental approval, and loss of their district charter. Therefore, charter schools are often doubling up their efforts to fulfill every aspect of their educational responsibilities.

Promotion of inclusion and community involvement

Another significant benefit of a charter school is the emphasis they place on inclusion and group involvement to help foster each child’s social and educational growth. Kid’s are usually characterized by the struggle for a sense of belonging during their adolescent years. The structure of charter schools gives them the ability to help students develop the confidence that would have been difficult to build in other traditional schools. Charter schools are also known to offer relatively more after school activities and events that help children pursue their additional interests.

Customized curriculums

With charter school settings, you can be guaranteed the ability to better customize your kid’s curriculum based on their likes and interests. While most other schools use the typical public school curriculums, charter schools fashion their curriculums towards perceived children’s needs. This is done in the belief that there may be specific tracks that your child loves and wants to pursue. Charter schools give them the lifeline to pursue such tracks irrespective of how difficult they may seem.

Why Do Parents Choose Charter Schools?

Why Do Parents Choose Charter Schools?

With the school choice movement becoming more popular across the country, parents are now getting more and more educational options for their children. Thanks to this educational revolution, the days of limiting school choices to neighbourhood public schools and the often unaffordable private schools have been put behind us. Today, parents have many options to choose from, including charter schools, magnet schools, homeschooling, and private schools.

Of course, the educational revolution has faced criticisms too, with critics often accusing charter schools of parasitically feasting on the resources meant for public schools. Despite these criticisms, more parents are still choosing charter schools for their kids’ development. The question is, “what’s making charter schools this attractive to parents? Here, let’s review some of the reasons why parents choose charter schools over other options.

Diverse Students Population

Despite the claims of segregation in charter schools by some critics, the truth is that charter schools actually promote diversity. While public schools are known to typically reflect their surrounding neighbourhoods’ population, charter schools do more. The opening of charter schools to all students irrespective of locality makes their students more diverse.


No doubt, accountability is a crucial aspect to think about before belonging to any organization. It’s not different in the educational setting. Many parents get drawn to charter schools because of the managerial and curricula freedom they enjoy compared to public schools. However, the increased freedom of charter schools means that they have to pay more attention to accountability. The charter guiding most charter schools contain specific goals that students need to achieve. With the non-achievement of these goals meaning possible withdrawal of charter, schools have to be on their toes to ensure that all of them are fulfilled to the later. Additionally, charter schools have to report to both parents and the community. Therefore, they’ll face even greater troubles if they don’t run the school as efficiently as they should.

Greater Independence

Despite having greater managerial and curricular freedom than traditional schools, it’s still hard to deny that they are public schools. Being classified as public schools means that they are bound by the laws and regulations binding public schools. But their ability to avoid a significant part of the red tape that traditional public schools are mostly known for puts them in a position of devoting more resources and energy to pursuing academic excellence.

Specialization Ability

While studying charter schools, we found that many charter schools choose to specialize in a particular area. Depending on certain factors, a charter school may choose to specialize in performing arts, science, or technology. Specializing in one area allows them to channel their resources and workforce to pursuing excellence in that area. Therefore, students can expect to be exposed to only classes that align with their interests. Nothing motivates a kid more than doing something that they love to do, and this is the kind of environment that charter schools provide for kids.

Are Charter Schools Privately Funded?

Are Charter Schools Privately Funded?

The simple answer to this question is no! While the charter school admission process may be similar to the private school admission process, the two of them differ in funding. Charter schools are classified as public schools; therefore, their funding comes from the government. However, they are funded according to enrollment (also called average daily attendance). This funding method means that they get their funding from the state or district based on the number of students in attendance. The funding method of charter schools differs significantly from the way private schools get their funding.

The best way to understand how charter schools are operated and funded is by examining their structures. Charter schools are publicly funded, privately managed, and semi-autonomous schools of choice. These schools do not charge tuition; however, they must be held at the same accountability standards as traditional schools.

How is a Charter School Different from a Private School?

How is a Charter School Different from a Private School?

As the options begin to close in, parents are mostly left to decide between two schools for their kids. It can be difficult choosing between private schools and charter schools. However, a proper understanding of the difference between charter schools and private schools will help you make the right choice. Here, let’s review some of the popular differences.

Education cost

One of the significant factors that differentiate charter schools from public schools is the cost of education. While private schools will typically need tuition to enroll, charter schools are free. The funding of private schools with money realized from tuition fees makes them very expensive for most parents.


As explained earlier, both schools differ in the way they are funded. While charter schools are funded by the government on a per-pupil basis, private schools are independently financed through tuition, grants, community and alumni contributions.

Government regulations

Despite being funded by government budgets, charter schools are still independent of government regulations. They are independently run and are not affected by government policies. However, they must meet all the standards outlined in their charter to be qualified to secure state funding. Similarly, private schools are autonomous at the federal level but must adhere to some basic state guidelines.

Application process

Applying for charter schools is typically easy. Like public schools, students don’t need to write a series of exams to qualify for admission. They just need to send an application letter signifying their interest to be qualified for the draw that will determine admitted students. On the other hand, private schools require a rigorous application process. The application process is typically based on entrance exams and interviews. Depending on a school’s competitiveness, students may need to write more than one exam to qualify for admission.

Wrapping Things Up: Charter School vs. Private School

While charter schools and private schools may be similar in their autonomy from certain state regulations, many differences still exist between them. Factors like the admission process and funding source differentiate the two. Parents need to understand their differences and how they impact their kid’s education before making a choice. Bear in mind that each kid has a unique academic need. Therefore, you must choose a school that meets your kid’s unique academic needs if you want them to succeed.

Of course, choosing can be pretty difficult, but the detailed information provided in this article should help you make the right choice. Never forget that each school’s setting may differ across different locations, and you’ll need to research their benefits independently to pick what’s suitable for your kid.

Want to learn about the difference among other types of school? Check out our posts here.

> Magnet School vs. Charter School

> Private School vs. Public School

> Online School vs. Public School

> Trade School vs. Vocational School

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...