Both magnet and charter schools exist as popular alternatives to traditional public schooling options. Since both alternatives have many similarities, so it can be confusing to discern how charter and magnet schools are alike and how they are different, leading parents to often have questions about the differences between the two.
What Is a Charter School?
Charter schools are schools of choice that operate outside of the traditional school board in their geographic zone. Rather than being directed by a government entity, many charter schools are directed by a private organization that may be a non-profit or for-profit organization.
These schools often focus on a specialty or niche area that can be underserved by the public institutions available in their area. They are authorized by a public agency which may be the local school board, but they are subject to some different requirements outlined in the school’s charter.
Are Charter Schools Public Schools?
The short answer is yes, charter schools are public schools. Charter schools began in the 1990s and are viewed by many to be a middle ground between a public school and private school. While they have many of the same requirements as a public school and cannot charge tuition for their students, they may receive some funding from private institutions rather than public tax dollars.
What Is a Magnet School?
Magnet schools are schools of choice that operate within the traditional school district as part of the public school system for their geographic area. They are run by the same school board organization that administers the public schools in the area, though the students who are serviced by a magnet school may come from any location within the school district.
Magnet schools were created in the 1970s to help promote school integration through voluntary, rather than forced, means. They often offer a specialized curriculum that focuses on a specific area of studies such as the performing arts, language immersion, or science and engineering. Others may use specialized means of instruction such as the Montessori model or International Baccalaureate (IB) programs.
Magnet schools may have criteria for admission such as GPA or testing requirements, though many of them accept students who apply for admission through a random lottery system.
Are Magnet Schools Public or Private?
Because magnet schools are managed by the school district in which they are founded, they are considered public schools. The same school board that directs the operations of every public school in the district will also oversee the operations of the magnet schools within their districts.
Charter Schools vs. Magnet Schools
Consider the following similarities and differences between charter and magnet schools in the United States.
Similarities Between Charter and Magnet Schools
Like charter schools, magnet schools may not charge tuition or enrollment fees for students selected for admission. Charter and magnet schools are free to attend for anyone admitted.
Both magnet and charter schools may choose students who are outside of the home neighborhood or area of the school for admission. Students who attend these schools may come from a variety of school zones and would have typically attended one of a number of public schools had they not chosen this alternative for their instruction.
Neither magnet nor charter schools may legally discriminate against students and must make admission available to all students who live in the geographic area which they serve. Students with individualized education plans (IEPs), health, and learning disabilities must be admitted on the same grounds as any other students. They must also be secular organizations, not operating under any religious principles.
Because of the high demand for enrollment, many charter and magnet schools also use a lottery system to select students for each school year. These lotteries randomly select students from the pool of applicants.
Students at both charter schools and magnet schools are subject to the state requirements for standardized testing and the state’s standards for each subject area, which means that core classes at both types of schools will cover similar information.
Differences Between Charter and Magnet Schools
Several differences exist between charter and magnet schools; the first one is the most obvious. Magnet schools are considered solely public schools under the purview of the local school board while charter schools are administered by the board of directors set up in their charters.
While local school boards may have some oversight in the way that charter schools operate, their influence is limited to that which the school’s charter allows.
Another difference between magnet and charter schools is that magnet schools may have more requirements for admission than charter schools. Charter schools may only use a lottery to select students if more apply than the school is reasonably able to admit. On the other hand, magnet schools may also have some grade or testing requirements for admission to their programs.
Charter schools are reviewed by an authorizing body in each state, which varies from place to place. There may be more than one authorizing body in each state, and the authorizing body may be a local school board or the state board of education. Each authorizing body will periodically review the charter school to ensure that it is meeting the requirements outlined in its charter, as well as review and revise the charter periodically to ensure that it meets all the needs of both the students and the school.
Magnet schools are subject to the same requirements as the public schools in the area, rather than their charter, and are overseen by the local school board.
While students at both types of schools are held to the state standards for core areas of instruction, charter schools have some leeway in the legal requirements for students that magnet schools do not have.
Funding for magnet schools vs. charter schools is another major source of differentiation between the two types of schools. Magnet schools are solely public institutions and are funded only by tax dollars in the same way that all public schools in the area are funded. Charter schools have more options for funding and may be funded through grant money, private donations from individuals and businesses, and also through public tax dollars.
All teachers at magnet schools must be certified and licensed by the state board of education in the state in which the school is located. Charter schools, on the other hand, have some leeway with this and may bring in teachers from many walks of life and careers to serve on their staff without being subject to the requirements of the state board of education.
Can a School Be Both a Magnet and a Charter School?
In short, yes. Here at Rhodes School for the Performing Arts, we have the distinction of being both a charter and a magnet school. We were the first school in Texas to be recognized as both. This designation is unusual, but we are very proud to have gained our dual status.
Because Rhodes School has achieved both of these classifications, our students have access to the best of both worlds. We are proud to say that we have been able to meet and exceed all of the requirements for both types of schools and offer our students the best in the areas of core education and the performing arts.
Visit our website to learn more about Rhodes School for the Performing arts in Houston, Texas. If you are interested in pursuing admission to the Rhodes School for the Performing Arts, please visit our website to learn more about admission.