When we talk about charter schools, we often get questions about accountability. This article aims to clear up any confusion about how charter schools are held to high standards of accountability that meet or even exceed the level of accountability for traditional public schools.  

In Indianapolis, charter schools experience three levels of accountability:  

  1. Nonprofit Board – A nonprofit board governs every Indianapolis charter school, providing governance and oversight. These boards include diverse, local community members and professionals who each bring a specific expertise, in areas like finance, operations, legal, academics, or community engagement.  
  2. Charter Authorizer – In order to operate as a public school, Indianapolis charter schools must receive authorization from a formal body. The Indianapolis Mayor’s Office authorizes most Indianapolis charter schools. Indianapolis is actually the first state in the country to give the mayor, a democratically elected official, authorizing power over charter schools. The Indianapolis Mayor’s Office oversees the academics, finances, and operations of mayor-sponsored public charter schools that educate about 18,000 students across the city. If a school’s authorizer determines the school is failing to meet expectations, it can revoke their charter which means the school can no longer operate.  
  3. Indiana Department of Education – The third layer of accountability for public charter schools is the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE). If a charter school is not advancing student achievement, the IDOE has the power to intervene. 

Do you have questions about charter schools? Read these frequently asked questions to seek your answers. 

Are charter schools free in Indianapolis?  

Yes, all Indiana public charter schools, including those institutions located in Indianapolis, are tuition-free. They are publicly-funded but privately-operated. 

Can any child attend a charter school in Indianapolis?  

Attending a charter school in Indianapolis is optional. Parents get to make the decision on where to send their child to learn. 

Like other public schools, the state of Indiana requires charter schools in Indianapolis to follow open enrollment laws. This means that any child eligible to attend a district public school in Indianapolis—regardless of race, religion, disability, language proficiency, or academic ability—is eligible to attend an Indianapolis charter school. 

How good are Indiana charter schools compared to those in other areas of the country?  

Indiana’s charter schools ranked number one in the U.S. in 2022 (for the seventh year in a row), according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. 

As with all schools, Stand for Children Indiana encourages parents to do their due diligence when selecting a school for their child. The best school for your child is the option that fits their needs, interests and has rigorous standards.  

Are all Indianapolis charter school teachers licensed?  

The state of Indiana has passed laws that mandate at least 90% of an Indianapolis charter school’s classroom teachers must be licensed. At mayor-sponsored Indianapolis charter schools, teachers must have a license or be in the process of getting their license. 

Are Innovation Network Schools the same as charter schools?  

No, independent charter schools operate outside the IPS school district, whereas Innovation Network Schools operate inside of IPS.  However, there are some similarities between both types of schools. Leaders at charter schools, like those at Innovation Network Schools, decide what’s best for their students and are free to innovate at the individual school level. 

Public charter schools play a significant role in Indiana’s educational landscape, offering an alternative model of schooling that prioritizes innovation, choice, and accountability. But often there is some confusion surrounding this type of school. Are they free? Do they accept students with disabilities? Are they public? If you’ve had any of the above questions, you’ve come to the right place.

Public charter schools are tuition-free and open to all students. They operate independently of traditional school district policies and have the flexibility to innovate in how they serve students. This autonomy at the school leader level means public charter school leaders can make decisions that are in the best interests of their students and families. 

This flexibility matches with rigorous accountability. Public charter schools have high standards for advancing student achievement and remaining fiscally sound.

Public charter school facts

  • Indiana charter schools are public schools—they are free to attend and open to all students for enrollment. 
  • Charter schools cannot deny students for any reason and must provide special education services and accommodations like any other public school.  
  • They are governed by a nonprofit board of directors. 
  • Public charter schools give school leaders the autonomy and flexibility to create new models for instruction that meet specific student needs. 
  • They are held accountable for advancing student achievement by their charter authorizer and the  Indiana State Department of Education
  • In Indianapolis, the mayor has the power to authorize public charter schools through the  Office of Education Innovation. The office is responsible for overseeing the academics, finances, and operations of mayor-sponsored public charter schools that educate about 18,000 students across the city.