There has always been a large chasm between how charter schools operate in reality versus what is said about them on paper.
One: all charter school laws state that charter schools are public, yet there is really nothing truly public about them in practice. Simply being called public or receiving public funds does not automatically make a school public under the law. Other legal criteria must be met.
Two: all charter school laws state that charter schools are open to all students, yet thousands of charter schools routinely use selective enrollment practices, which usually means that they frequently under-enroll special needs students, English Language Learners, homeless students, “poor behaving” students, and other types of youth.
Three: all charter school laws state that charter schools are tuition-free, yet thousands of charter schools deploy strategies that put parents in a position where they have to spend money on various things and/or (“voluntarily”) perform certain functions normally performed by paid credentialed professionals. In many cases, parents are even required to sign a contract saying that they must carry out certain responsibilities if they want everything to go smoothly and avoid consequences.
Many other examples could be given that show that what is written on paper about charter schools is usually very different from what actually happens in practice.
Today there are about 3.7 million students enrolled in roughly 7,800 privately-operated charter schools in 45 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam.