Exploring Charter Options

A Digital Toolkit for Families


Getting Started

Before you begin exploring schools, it’s important to consider what matters to your family and your child about their educational experience. Use the following checklist to consider what would be offered at your ideal school and also those things that are “must haves.”

What is a charter school?

Charter schools are public schools. They are part of the MNPS school district. Like other public schools, they are free and open to all children in Metro Nashville. But unlike zoned schools, they are open for enrollment regardless of where you live.

Public charter schools are also different from selective public schools—like academic magnet schools—because there are no special entrance requirements, such as test scores. Also, many charter schools offer free transportation to students, whereas most other optional public schools in Metro Nashville do not.

Is a charter school the right choice for my family?

A charter school may be the right choice for your family if you’re interested in a school setting where teachers and school leaders embrace innovative approaches for instruction and school culture.

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 are managed by the school district. Because they are independently operated by nonprofits, public charter schools have the flexibility to innovate and to design their school to best meet the needs of the students they serve.

This is why charter schools were created—to incubate innovative practices that can benefit all students and to serve students whose needs aren’t being met in a traditional school setting.

Can I tour a charter school to learn more about it?

Yes! All charter organizations in Nashville welcome families for school tours on a regular basis. View our list of member schools to read more about each charter organization and how to schedule a visit.

How do I enroll my child in a charter school?

Most charter schools in Nashville participate in the Optional Schools Application process offered by Metro Schools. The timeline and process for the application is set by the school district. However, the following public charter school organizations have their own application and random selection process for enrollment:

How are charter schools different than school vouchers or Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs)?

Charter schools are public schools that are open to all Metro Nashville students. Vouchers take money allocated to public schools and allow parents to use it toward tuition at any school of their choice. A portion or the entirety of the tax money allocated for a child to attend a public school is given to the parent as a “voucher” for use toward tuition. This allows parents to use taxpayer dollars for private schools, including schools that are religiously affiliated.

While charter schools are held to the same — and in some cases more rigorous — accountability standards as all other public schools, private schools that accept vouchers are not. For example, these private schools may have limited accountability for educating students with disabilities or for ensuring all teachers have relevant licenses for the subjects they teach.

ESAs are similar to vouchers in that they give participating families who have withdrawn their children from public school a portion of their child’s public funding for education to be spent on education-related expenses. Depending on the particular state law, ESAs can be used for such things as private school tuition, online programs, or tutoring.

Additional information from EdWeek on vouchers and ESAs.

Do you have other questions?

Please send us an email at info@nashvillechartercollaborative.org.