Admissions / Enrollment
Are charter schools public schools?

Yes. Charter schools in New York, including the more than 200 authorized by the State University of New York (SUNY) Board of Trustees, are publicly funded schools that operate independently from local school districts.

Are charter schools open to all students?

Yes. Charter schools are tuition-free and open to admission to all students, regardless of race, creed, gender, national origin, religion, ancestry, disability, aptitude or athletic ability. Parents have until April 1st of each year to submit an application to a charter school(s). When applications exceed available seats, charter schools hold an admission lottery. There are currently more than 173,000 students on wait lists for SUNY charter schools – a testament to the demand for high quality educational options.

What is a charter school lottery?

When applications exceed available seats following the end of the application period, charter schools hold an admission lottery – a random drawing process. If their child is selected, families are given option to accept or decline the offer.

Do charter schools accept English language learners and students with disabilities?

Yes. Charter schools in New York accept English language learners and students with disabilities. In fact, under New York State Law, charters must demonstrate their efforts to recruit these students.

Can charter schools have an enrollment preference?

Yes. Charter schools may give enrollment preference to returning students, siblings of enrolled students, and students residing with the same community school district. Additionally, if approved by its authorizer, schools may provide preference to ELLs, students with disability, students eligible for free or reduced priced lunch. Under New York State Law, charter schools may be single-sex.

How are charter schools created?

Charter schools are public schools created by parents, educators, civic leaders, and other community leaders. Applicants must apply and secure the approval of an authorizing entity by demonstrating their ability to operate a school successfully, respond to community needs, and present a compelling case that the school will likely improve student learning and achievement.

Who leads charter schools?

Charter schools in New York are independent and autonomous public schools founded by non-profit Boards of Trustees. Every charter has a “school leader” responsible for management of the school and accountable to the Board. Charter management organizations must also be nonprofit.   

Are there limits to the number of charter schools in New York?

Yes. Under New York State law, the number of charter schools is limited to 460. As of 2020, approximately 400 charter schools have been approved to operate.  

Do charter schools have to follow the same laws and regulations as traditional schools?

Yes. Charter schools must adhere to New York State Charter Schools Act of 1998, which requires schools to adhere to all health, safety, and civil rights laws required of other public schools. They must also meet the same student assessment requirements. However, they are exempt from other laws and regulations.

What grades do charter schools offer?

Charter schools in New York may offer Kindergarten through 12th Grade instruction, depending on their approved educational models. Charter schools may also offer pre-kindergarten. Some schools may develop a unique model to serve specific populations of students.  For example, the SUNY Trustees authorize two schools with an ungraded model serving students on the autism spectrum and high schools that serve over-age, under-credited youth.

Do charter schools have to offer the same amount of instruction as traditional public schools?

Yes. In fact, many charter schools have longer school days/years than traditional district schools.

Do charter schools offer transportation?

Individual districts provide transportation to charter school students on the same basis as nonpublic students. Charters may also provide their own transportation.

Do charter schools offer special education?

Yes. A charter school’s primary obligation is to work with the district to ensure provision of services as required by a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).

How do I know whether a SUNY charter school is high performing?

The Institute publishes performance reports for every SUNY authorized school. We recommend reviewing the most recent Renewal Recommendation Report and Accountability Plan Progress Report to learn about a school’s history, academic program, instruction, operations, governance, and student achievement.

What is a charter school authorizer?

Charter schools in New York must apply and secure the approval of an authorizing body to open and continue operating a charter school. Authorizers monitor the school’s performance toward academic and operational goals and determine whether a school may continue to operate for another charter term.

There are four charter authorizers in New York: The State University of New York, New York State Education Department (NYSED), New York City Department of Education and Buffalo Board of Education. Only two authorizers – NYSED and SUNY – are granted the authority to approve applications for new charters.

How does authorizing work at SUNY?

The Board of Trustees is the governing body of the State University of New York.  The Charter Schools Committee is a subcommittee of the Board of Trustees that oversees SUNY authorized charter schools. The Committee approves or denies charter applications, material revisions, and renewals, and sets SUNY charter school policies and standards.

What is the role of SUNY Charter Schools Institute?

The Institute, working on behalf of the SUNY Board of Trustees Charter Schools Committee, evaluates initial applications for charter schools, monitors student academic performance and school operations, and presents findings and recommendations regarding the renewal of a school’s charter to the SUNY Trustees. Additionally, the Institute offers support and guidance to support authorized schools in achieving high quality outcomes for the students and parents they serve.

Can SUNY close an authorized charter school?

Yes. A school’s Accountability Plan lays out specific student achievement goals and outcome measures that represent expectations the SUNY Trustees hold for student learning and achievement. At the end of its charter term, a school must demonstrate comprehensive evidence for meetings these Accountability Plan goals. Schools that are unable to demonstrate this evidence are at risk of non-renewal.

How does SUNY hold charter schools accountable?

The Institute evaluates charter schools using the school’s performance on New York State exams as well as additional metrics (high school graduation, college readiness) if applicable. Charters last up to five years and in order to continue operating, a charter school must demonstrate they have met the certain goals and measures. The single most important factor in determining whether a school is allowed to continue to operate is its record in generating successful student achievement outcomes.