Frequently Asked Questions

Nashville public charter schools are public schools that are tuition-free and open to all students, making them a part of a healthy public education ecosystem. These are public schools just like any other school in your community, except that each family chose to enroll their children there. For many families who are otherwise zoned for low-performing district schools, public charter schools are their only accessible alternative to receive a high-quality education. 

Public charter schools, just like traditional district schools, are funded with public dollars, based on student enrollment. According to Tennessee law, education funding belongs to the student at the school they choose to enroll in. In this way, money allocated for each student “follows” them to the school of their choice; funding works this same way in open enrollment and magnet schools in Metro Nashville. In fact, a greater number of students leave their zoned neighborhood schools to attend these MNPS open enrollment schools (thereby “taking” the funding allocated for their education away from their neighborhood school) than leave to attend public charter schools. 

Charter schools also do not receive capital funds like traditional schools for building construction or repair. Instead, charter schools are responsible for providing their own facilities within the limits of their operating budget.  

Nashville public charter schools are open to all students and have no entrance requirements. This means they serve all types of students from all types of backgrounds, including students with disabilities. Charter schools in Nashville serve economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and English learner students at equal or higher rates than traditional public schools. Additionally, many charter schools in Nashville participate in the school district’s open enrollment application, which is a random selection process (i.e., lottery) so they have no involvement in processing applications for the students who attend their school. Most charter schools also offer transportation, easing the burden for all families to attend.

We believe that with great autonomy comes great responsibility. When charter schools fail to live up to the standards set out in their charter — on anything from student performance, to ethical business practices and everything in between — they should be held accountable, as should all public schools.

Nashville public charter schools are often recognized as some of Nashville’s highest-performing schools, and we’re always striving to do better. We’re proud of the nearly 13,000 Nashville students who call a public charter school home. In fact, charter schools make up more than 30 percent of MNPS’s top-performing schools, and in 2022, more than three quarters of charter schools posted the highest level of student test score growth on TVAAS.

The main difference between public charter schools and traditional public schools is how they are operated: Charter schools are managed by nonprofit organizations, while traditional public schools in Nashville are managed by district staff at MNPS. By law, charter schools in Tennessee cannot be managed by for-profit entities. Because they are independently operated by nonprofits, public charter schools have the flexibility to innovate and design their school to best meet the needs of the students they serve. This is why charter schools were created: to incubate innovative educational practices and to serve students whose needs aren’t being met in traditional school settings.

No. Some charter schools are managed by network organizations that run several schools here and in other cities. Other charter schools are run by small, local organizations. The different nonprofit organizations that manage charter schools each have their own approach. Some focus on college prep, some follow a computer science curriculum, and others build their entire curriculum around project-based learning. Most Nashville charter schools require uniforms and many have extended school days or regular flex days to allow for additional teacher training time. The possibilities are endless, but charter schools aim to provide a range of options so that parents can choose the school that best fits their child’s needs.

Nashville has a long and proud history of philanthropic investment in public education. Nashville charter schools receive donations from many Nashville community supporters, many of whom also make donations to other education causes and community issues.

In many cases, charter schools in Nashville actually operate on leaner budgets than traditional schools. This is because they don’t receive funding for facilities like traditional schools do and also because they educate a large percentage of high-need students without receiving additional per pupil funds for those students as district-run schools do. 

Some charter schools do receive philanthropic support, as do many traditional schools through PTOs and community partner organizations. Private support for public education is needed and welcomed at all schools in Nashville.