Charter Schools

A Fab & Fru Education?

Charter Schools 1

Let’s face it – living in a city often means sending your kids to a decent public school is out of the question. I wish that were only an urban myth, but it is definitely a sad urban truth. Based on my own experience as an urban dwelling, private school attendee, I figured not having good public schools was just the price you paid in exchange for the stimulation of city living.  Even if your zip code is top of the list, the reality is your school district may be bottom of the barrel. But now that I have children, I found myself wondering: What’s a Fab & Fru parent to do?

With kindergarten on the horizon for my oldest son, a few quick calculations inspired me to figure out exactly what our education options were.  Unless I seriously miscalculated (believe me I was hoping this was the case) it seems that it will cost me north of half a million dollars to send both of my kids to private school in Los Angeles (we’re talking just through 12th grade – not including college)!

Of course, I think my boys are worth every penny, but can our only options really be  a) moving to a different neighborhood or b) shelling out around $50,000 per year for my two kids to attend private school?   As a Fab & Fru mom, I felt compelled to find out if there were any alternatives beyond the traditional private vs. public dilemma.

And then I heard about them: Charter Schools.  From the bits and pieces I got from other parents at the playground, I gathered that Charter Schools had high academic standards — but were free?!  Are they too good to be true – or are they really Fab & Fru?

What exactly are charter schools?

Are they really free? Are they public, private or somewhere in between?

According to, a charter school is a public school ‘of choice’.  Ok, so what does that mean?  Basically, that they are a distinct breed of public schools.  Like regular public schools, charters are publicly funded, so they are tuition free. But, they have significant differences – many would say advantages – when compared with traditional public schools.

Each school has to adhere to its specific “charter” – a mission statement which generally includes higher academic standards than the average public school.  Charter schools have freedom from much of the bureaucracy that traditional public schools have to contend with, but with that freedom comes more responsibility. In exchange for greater autonomy, Charter Schools have to meet higher standards. Unlike a traditional public school, which can under perform but will still receive federal and state funding, if Charter Schools don’t meet the standards set forth in their mandate, they can be shut down. It’s the specifics in the charter which make them attractive options, things like: higher academic standards, smaller classes and innovative teaching techniques.

charter schools


Where are Charter Schools located?


40 states currently have Charter Schools. You can find out if your state has them by checking out  Even if your state doesn’t have one, you can get a group together and start your own!  Charter schools can be started by anyone who is concerned with improving the quality of public education in their neighborhood.

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7 Responses to “Charter Schools”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kathypape. kathypape said: Can you afford 500k for private school or are charter schools right for you? #charterschools [...]

  2. Franny says:

    Thank you for this article! Very informative and well written! xoxo

  3. Robert says:

    I’ve read that, statistically, charter schools often fail to meet education standards more than traditional public schools.

    Do you have any numbers on how many fail to meet education standards, how many close each year (for that or other reasons – space, funding, etc)? I also wonder how much a parent ends up paying in fundraisers and sweat equity when contrasted with a private school.

    • Fab & Fru says:

      We spoke with Anna Nicotera, Director of Research & Evaluation for the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools (, here’s what she had to say:

      Out of 4600 charter schools in the U.S., 109 closed in 2008 due to a variety of issues (usually funding issues rather than academic ones).

      There are many studies out there with a mixed bag of results re – charter school performance. The most recent one we have seen came out of Stanford University on Sep 22, 2009 which was very positive. They studied New York City charter schools and found that students enrolled in charter schools performed better on state exams than students who failed to win a spot in the charter schools. One interesting finding from this study: they found that students attending charter schools from K-8 do almost as well as children in affluent, high performing, suburban public school districts on math exams (the researcher refers to this as closing the “Harlem-Scarsdale gap”).

      As far as sweat equity goes, Ms. Nicotera tells us that since charters are overseen by the states and every charter is different, requirements vary to a large degree. By law she says that no fundraising can be required, though of course many parents who can afford to give, do. Each charter is different, but some charter schools have parents sign contracts, in which they agree to devote a certain amount of time and energy to the school. Again, the exact nature of the commitment varies by school.

      The bottom line is each charter is different and as widely varied as public school districts. You really have to evaluate what the options are in your neighborhood and see which offers the best education option for you.

  4. Silia says:

    My husband and I decided to investigate our neighborhood urban high school, for our daughters, instead of relying on hearsay and media hype. We found some great teachers and administrators. Against a lot of social pressure, we enrolled our daughters at the local public high school, after letting them shadow students there for a day. Our oldest daughter is now enrolled in one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country, and our youngest will be graduating this year, and going to college. Are there things that we don’t like about the school? Of course. There were also things we didn’t like about the private school they attended from kindergarten through 8th grade. Dismissing educational opportunities without really investigating them is foolish. If you look at the racial makeup of public schools, it’s pretty clear that racism is what leads many families to private schools, and to suburban areas.

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