The Indiana Charter School Network serves as Indiana’s charter school association. A great majority of Hoosier charter schools are dues-paying members. ICSN works closely with the IQE policy team in the development of policy positions to be shared with policymakers, to ensure our charter school members are represented well at the state level. ICSN provides member schools with communications on policy issues, grant opportunities, charter-related research, events of interest, and other relevant information. ICSN provides professional development opportunities for charter school staff and connects member schools to vendor partners offering our schools exceptional service or discounts.
What are charter schools?
Charter schools are public schools open to all Hoosier students. Charter schools got their name from the “charter” or contract that must exist between an organizer and an authorizer. Unlike public magnet schools and private schools that can set enrollment criteria, charter schools must have an open enrollment policy. Charters have no geographic boundaries like traditional public school districts. Charters also do not charge any tuition.
Unlike some traditional public schools, no student is forced to attend a charter school. Parents make the decision to send their child to a charter because they believe it will be the best educational environment for their student. A lottery must be held if the number of students who wish to attend the charter school is greater than the number of available seats in the school.
Charter schools were created to allow schools to operate with more flexibility and less regulation in return for being held to a stricter accountability framework. Many would argue that a parent continuing to choose a charter school is the ultimate form of accountability.
Indiana law requires charter school organizers to be run by nonprofit boards. There are three types of charter schools in Indiana. Each of these are funded differently:
- Traditional brick and mortar charter schools
- Virtual charter schools
- Adult charter high schools (also known as dropout recovery schools)
Where are charter schools located?
Charter schools exist in all but a handful of U.S. states. In Indiana, charter schools are located throughout the state. There is a large concentration of charter schools in Indianapolis, and also a sizeable number of charter schools in northwest Indiana. However, charters exist in 23 counties around the state from urban to suburban to rural areas. In the 2021-22 school year, there are just over 120 charter schools across the Hoosier state.
Who attends charter schools?
In the 2020-21 school year, almost 50,000 students attended a charter school. That number equates to 4.8% of all of Indiana’s public school students.
Charter schools serve all types of students from Kindergarteners to senior citizens. Some charter schools exist to serve an underserved community where there are few or no quality public school choices. Other charter schools exist to offer a unique focus or curriculum that is lacking in the area, like Montessori or STEM or rigorous college prep. Yet others exist to focus on serving a specialized population, like students with autism or other learning disabilities, students recovering from addiction, or adult high school dropouts. While charter schools serve all types of students and communities, Indiana charter schools on average serve a significantly higher minority and economically disadvantaged populations. We serve nearly equal percentages of students with disabilities as district public schools. Indiana charter schools serve a slightly higher percentage of English language learners than district public schools do.
What else should I know about charter schools?
2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the passage of the law.
Indiana’s charter school law was first passed in 2001, signed into law by Governor Frank O’Bannon. Then state Senator Teresa Lubbers worked tirelessly for 7 years to get Indiana’s first charter school law passed.
Indiana’s charter school law has been ranked as the #1 charter school law in the nation for six consecutive years by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.