New Orleans Charter Schools – FAQ

New Orleans Charter Schools

1.  What is a charter school?

Charter schools are independent public schools. They exist under a contract with an authoritative public body – the authorizer – such as a state or local school board that holds the charter school accountable for results. The “charter” is a legal contract that outlines the school’s mission, program, goals, students served and ways to measure success.

Charter schools have their own school boards. They run independently of traditional school districts, yet since they are public schools they are funded by taxpayer money.

2.  Who can start a charter school?

Charter schools can be created by parents, a team of teachers, a community organization or a university that shares a vision of a school’s mission, educational program, and achievement standards.

3.  Who oversees charter schools in New Orleans?

In New Orleans, two bodies monitor the charter schools: the Orleans Parish School Board and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), which oversees charter schools in the Recovery School District and Type 2 statewide charter schools located in New Orleans. Read more about school governance.

4.  What are the differences between public charter schools and traditional public schools?

Let’s start with the similarities. Public charter schools and traditional public schools are both public schools. They are both publicly funded, and both are subject to Louisiana’s school and student accountability program.

In New Orleans, public charter schools operate under a contract issued by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) or the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB). OPSB also runs 6 traditional schools.

The two most significant differences between public charter schools and traditional public schools in New Orleans are in the areas of autonomy and accountability.


Public charter schools have significantly more autonomy than traditional public schools. As long as the charter school complies with state laws, each charter school can decide how best to respond to its students needs. Charter schools have independent control over curriculum, hiring staff, setting salaries, budgets and negotiating support services such as transportation and food services. This freedom empowers principals and teachers.

In contrast, these decisions are usually made by the school district for traditional public schools, which must adhere to district policies and standards in all of the above areas.


In exchange for their increased autonomy, public charter schools are held to strict measures of accountability in the areas of student performance, safety and compliance, and financial and operational practices. Louisiana’s accountability standards for charter schools are among the most rigorous in the nation.

5.  Aren’t charter schools selective? I thought that charter schools pick and choose their students.

Of the 75 New Orleans charter schools operating in 2014-15, only 7 use selective admissions criteria for their general educational programs. These 7 schools are either:

1) under the governance of the OPSB and were “conversion charters” – traditional public schools that had selective admissions before they were converted to charter schools in 2005, or

2) language immersion schools that require a certain level of proficiency for admission to later grades, or

3) the military academy, which requires a candidate interview and participation in JROTC.

The degree of selectivity varies and includes academic and geographic admission requirements.

All schools in the Recovery School District are open to any New Orleans child. Parents apply using a Common Application Process, and if there are more applications than there are places in a school, the school must hold a random lottery to determine which students will be offered a space.

To learn more about individual schools, see the New Orleans Parents’ Guide.

6.  Do charter school students have to take the LEAP tests?

As public schools, all charter schools must participate in Louisiana’s testing program, including iLEAP, LEAP, End of Course Tests and the ACT. They are subject to Louisiana’s school and student accountability program, just like all other public schools.

7.  How are charter schools funded? Do charter school students pay tuition?

Like all public schools, New Orleans charter schools receive public funding on a per-pupil basis and are tuition free. Charter schools can supplement their public funds with private donations.

8.  Do charter schools take money from public schools?

Charter schools are public schools. In New Orleans, the money follows the student to the school that the student chooses, whether it is a traditionally run or a charter public school.

9.  Do charter schools make a profit?

By Louisiana Law, all charter schools must be nonprofit organizations- they cannot make a profit. However Charter Boards do have the option to hire a for-profit company to manage the daily operations of the school. In New Orleans, no charter school is currently managed by a for profit company.

10.  How many students go to charter schools?

As of October 1, 2014, 42,871 students – or 92% – were enrolled in charter schools.

Across the country, more than 6,000 charter schools are serving over 2.5 million children in 42 states and the District of Columbia.


New Schools for New Orleans –

New Orleans Parent Organizing Network –

National Alliance of Public Charter Schools –

The Center for Education Reform –

Updated 8/1/2015