Difference Between a Magnet School and a Charter School

Updated on August 02, 2011
K.M. asks from Parker, CO
7 answers

Hello all! Just looking into different schools in our arear and I am just wondering what is the difference between a charter school and a magnet school?


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answers from Chicago on

A magnet school is a school with a specific focus - like a fine arts magnet or a military magnet or a vocational ed magnet. They would have a certain amount of funding set aside to pay for an enhanced curiculum. Usually they are still a public school and they follow all the rules of the public school system, they just have stuff "added". And they may or may have special enrollment requirements.

A charter school is a school that is 'run' by a corporation as a buisness and they recieve additional funding from that corporation. Even though it will have a principal and from the "outside" look like any other school - the actual decision making can be quite different. They are considered a public school and they have access to public funding therefore they can't exclude students (but if a charter school is good, it will have a wait list and may enroll based on a lottery). Charter schools don't have to adhere to all the public school requirements (for example length of the school day or union policies) but they do have to adhere to the testing requirements for your state in order to continue to receive public funding.

Either way you want to go to the school and check it out before enrolling your kids!

Hope that helps.

I just saw Tracy K's post - that is a fabulous link!!!!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

When looking at schools, please don't overlook the Waldorf schools. You have a wonderful one out there in Denver. And a Waldorf education is the best you can give to your child.



answers from Denver on

You mostly got the answer from other responses. I just wanted to clarify that charter schools and magnet schools are both public schools and to affirm that charter schools are not necessarily run by "corporations."

Also, to point you to another resource, I maintain a website, http://www.schoolchoiceforkids.org/english.php, that allows you to search for schools within 2-10 miles radius of your address. You can search by grade and school specialty (such as Core Knowledge, Montessori, science focus, and many others). There are also other pages that have lists of questions to ask when you visit a school and general information about open enrollment. You will need to open enroll into either a charter or a magnet school.

Many charters and some magnets schools will have already filled their slots for the year, but if you're looking for this fall, it doesn't hurt to call and see if there are openings. Most school district open enrollment periods are somewhere between December and February, so be sure to check with your school district to find out when you need to get your applications in. Good luck!



answers from Pocatello on

Magnet schools are a part of the school district; they usually have a specialty such as math or performing arts. Charter schools (though they too often have a special area of focus) are more autonomous; they are separate from the school district, which gives them the freedom to make unique choices in education (like using a different curriculum, firing bad teachers, etc.) whereas district schools are often constrained by too much bureaucracy. So which is better? That depends entirely upon the individual school. There are excellent and abysmal examples of each. Go on tours of the schools you are interested in, ask lots of questions! Go to greatschools.com and the school district's website to find out how the school is doing on test scores and parent approval ratings. Talk to parents to find out which teachers are best; in short, do your homework! Then apply to two or three or more schools, since you may not get into your first choice. Charter schools do a lottery drawing, some magnet schools do too. Best of luck, I know how hard this is! I had my kids in an excellent charter school that we had to leave and now I am trying to figure out where they will go to school in the fall! I applied to and didn't get into my first 2 choices. :(

Oh, and charter schools are NOT always involved with a corporation of any kind, the one my kids went to was founded by a group of parents and teachers. Charter schools are public schools, but they are 'public schools of choice,' you choose whether or not to apply.



answers from Denver on

Charter schools in Colorado have to be approved by the school district to exist. They are allowed to function by the school district but only receive state funding. Therefore, there is a lot less support provided by a school district, including money, staff, and sometimes builidings. The good part is that Charters can be purposeful. Let's say they only want 50 kids per grade for two teachers. They can do that if they can afford it. They also can require their families to provide x number of hours to support the school. In some cases that is how the school can be self sufficient. Lastly the staff at a charter school makes less than their public school counterparts because they do not receive county or city funding as well. This in some cases causes the school to have high turnover from year to year.

A magnet school is school with a focus (like core knowledge, performing arts, GT) that the district supports. Depending on your county, it can take only neighborhood students (like in Jeffco's Bear Creek K-8) or has auditions that admits applicants (like DPS's School of the Performing Arts). And other schools admit students on a lottery system (like Jeffco's Dennison). These schools have a clear mission that the staff, students, and parents adhere to.

Happy school shopping:)


answers from Minneapolis on

"Magnet" was a confusing term in our district a few years back (6 or so) when my daughters elementary school became the first in our district (and the whole area of other districts) to have one and get the trend rolling. They started just using the term "specialty school". Way less confusing.

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