Every state has its own flavor of charters and therefore, regulates them differently. Originally charters were supposed to be model schools of innovation but that didn't last long. Not when there was money to be made. Here in Michigan, the DeVos capital of the world, charters are completely unregulated. Anyone can open one. They just need approval from an "authorizer," who is rewarded for their sponsorship by raking in 3% of each child's school aid funding for the year.
The largest authorizers in Michigan, not coincidentally, are universities that have received millions in DeVos donations. Buildings and wings are named after them. These authorizers sometimes close charters that aren't making money, but seldom (if ever) close ones for low academic achievement. Some have been in the bottom 5% state wide for 20 years without consequences. If the state starts nosing around, they sell the charter to a different charter company (often one affiliated with the same management company). 80% of charters in Michigan are for-profit. The other 20% have ways of calling themselves non-profit, but frequently do it by funneling money to their management companies. So they just hide the money better.
The charters can open anywhere, anytime, without the consent of the local school districts, towns, or cities they are in. They do not have to have any community representation. There's no such thing as a School Board for charters. They have Board of Directors. Their meetings and financial dealings are secret because they are businesses. Even their authorizers don't monitor their books. The state of Michigan looks the other way, unless the charters are sued for fraud, which happens.
Charters do not have to hire certified teachers. They do not have to accept any student they don't want. There are no lottery procedures. They get parents to enroll by promising them free laptops. Then they feed the children computer instruction with little adult interaction. Or their management companies create textbooks and software and make a profit by selling it to themselves at an inflated price. Charters also get tax write offs for their real estate deals. Which by the way, they pay for out of their school state aid.
Charters often do not honor IEP's. If parents start complaining the child is counseled out. Special Ed students cost more to educate and subtract from the school's bottom line. Charters do not have to provide transportation unless they want to. If they do, they get a stipend from the state. School funding in Michigan comes from the state. Local taxes are sent to Lansing and Lansing chooses how much each district gets back. Money is allocated on a per child basis. So every child enrolled in a charter school takes their school aid allotment with them. 90% of the funding is determined by the mid-October count date. If a child leaves a charter school at any time after that, the funding stays with the charter school and does not go to the public school that ends up educating that child the rest of the year. Every November there is a swell of students who leave charters and enroll in public schools.
Public schools are not equally funded by the state. Poorer areas get less than wealthy ones. So it’s no surprise so many in low economic areas start to falter. They have to play by the rules, but the charters don’t. They swoop in. Sweeping up the children. Making promises to the parents they don’t intend to keep. Siphoning off even more money from the beleaguered district. Then the state comes in and blames the Public School District for not succeeding under such a system and takes them over. Emergency Managers are appointed. The schools are given to charters. Charter companies do NOT have to reimburse the public school communities. Their assets can be forfeited or “sold” to the charter companies for a dollar a year.
The enormously powerful and rich DeVos family has been picking candidates and lobbying government for 20 years to set up Michigan’s charter system. As you can see, you definitely do not want Betsy DeVos style charters in your district.