Although Tennessee charter schools are public schools, there are important differences. Generally, charter schools operate on three principles:
Accountability: Charter schools are evaluated on how well they meet the student achievement goals established by their charter contract. Charter schools must also demonstrate that they can meet rigorous fiscal and managerial standards. If a charter school cannot perform up to established standards, it can be closed by the charter authorizer, which is the local education agency (LEA).
Choice: Charter schools give families an opportunity to choose the school that best suits their child's educational well-being. Moreover, teachers, staff, and the principal have an opportunity to create and work at schools where they have the power to directly shape the learning environment and atmosphere that best serves their students.
Autonomy: While charter schools must adhere to many of the laws and regulations that govern traditional district public schools, they are freed from the bureaucracy that often diverts a school's energy and resources away from the mission of the school. As a result, charter school leaders can focus all of their efforts on setting and reaching high academic standards for their students.
An important inequity to note is that charter schools do not receive separate funds to cover their facility needs. As a result, charter schools must seek additional funding from the private sector, engage in other fundraising efforts, or make undesirable budget cuts. Many charter proponents are pushing for legislation that equals the playing field in terms of funding for charter schools.