Differences between private, public, charter and magnet schools

Private schools are independent of the public school system. They often belong to accrediting organizations that require them to meet certain requirements and standards. Organizational structures vary from individually owned to board of directors controlled. Private schools do not have to adhere to state testing requirements and state teaching standards, but often put in place testing requirements and teaching standards specifically designed for their student body or educational philosophy. While some private schools receive state monies for accepting particular students (Mackay or Opportunity Scholarships/Voucher), funding is primarily through student tuition paid by the parents, grandparents, or guardians of the student.

Public schools are those schools controlled by the public school district. Public schools are required to meet state educational standards for testing and teaching. They generate revenue through several mechanisms, including a per student funding allocation from the Florida Department of Education, ad valorem tax assessments, sales surtax assessment and grants. A publicly elected school board controls expenditures, policy decisions and hiring decisions.

In Hernando County, an appointed Superintendent reports to the School Board, but maintains control over the function of the district on a day to day basis. Some school districts in Florida have a publicly elected Superintendent. Individual schools receive a grade each year by the state, based on student and teacher performance.

Charter schools fall under the umbrella of the public school system or district, but are managed by independent educators, an organization or legal entity. The organizers of the charter school form a “governing board” and apply to the district to start a charter school. The charter school itself must be a non-profit organization there is no owner it is managed by a board. The school is governed by a “charter” or agreement with the school district in which the charter school must meet certain criteria. According to the state, the charter “frees them from many regulations created for traditional public schools while holding them accountable for academic and financial results.” Charter schools are exempt from the Florida K-20 Education Code, but must abide by statutes specifically applying to charter schools including student assessment program and school grading system; services to students with disabilities; civil rights; student health, safety, and welfare; and maximum class size.

Like regular public schools, charter schools receive a per student allocation from the state. According to the Department of Education, “Charter school funding includes gross state and local funds, discretionary lottery funds, and funds from the school district’s current operating discretionary millage levy; divided by the total funded weighted full-time equivalent (FTE) students in the school district; multiplied by the weighted FTE students in the charter school. Charter schools are entitled to their proportionate share of categorical program funds, for eligible students and programs.” Often the school district charges the charter school for administrative services and other services that they are contracted to provide.

Charter school administrators are not required to be certified, but teachers in a charter school must maintain certification. Teachers are not hired by the school district, but through the charter organizers.

Charter schools are designed to give parents broader educational choices for their children. Often school districts see charter schools as competitors for funding as they take funding and are not entirely controlled by the district.

The proponents highlight charter schools take less money per student leaving more money per student for the remaining students. The opponents point out that charter schools can choose their students, so they may pick the ones that are easier to deal with that require less resources.

The school board does not have the final say with charter school applications, if an application for a charter school is denied, organizers can appeal to The Charter School Appeal Commission.

Magnet schools are public schools that declare a specialized curriculum in a certain field. They can draw students from across the district unlike a regular public school which draws students from a zone within the district. This can give some magnet schools an advantage in sports as they can get the best players across the entire district.