What is a Charter School?

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools open to all students regardless of zip code, race/ethnicity, or ability level. 

In New Jersey, a “charter” is defined as a contract with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) detailing the school’s mission, program, performance goals, and methods of assessments. 

Charter schools run on four- to five-year performance contracts that focus on student outcomes. In exchange for increased accountability to the NJDOE and high financial, academic, and managerial standards, charter schools have more flexibility and autonomy than traditional public district schools, which allows for the use of innovative teaching methods to meet the needs of all students.

All charter schools in New Jersey are non-profit organizations governed by an independent board of trustees. The vast majority of funding for charter schools comes from federal, state, and local tax dollars, and, as with all public schools, charter schools fundraise from a variety of sources, such as families at the school, local businesses, and foundations.

Charter schools receive annual audits conducted by the NJDOE and an independent fiscal auditor based on the Performance Framework. If a charter school fails to provide a quality education to students, they are forced to close. 

The NJDOE serves as the sole authorizer and oversees all public charter schools in the state.

Commonly Asked Charter School Questions

Are charter schools really free?

Yes. Charter schools are 100% tuition-free public schools.

Is there an application fee to apply to a charter school?

There is no fee to enroll or to apply. By law, public charter schools CANNOT charge a fee or tuition for application or enrollment.

How are charter schools funded?

Charter schools are publicly-funded. The vast majority of funding for charter schools comes from federal, state, and local tax dollars. As with all public schools, charter schools fundraise from a variety of sources, such as families at the school, local businesses, and foundations.

Do charter schools “cherry pick” applicants?

No. Charter schools are tuition-free public schools run by non-profit organizations open to all students regardless of zip code, race/ethnicity, or ability level. There are no admission tests or special entrance requirements.

Do charter schools serve children with special needs?

Yes. Foundation Academies is a free public charter school, which means it is free and open to ALL students, including those with special needs or those who are learning English.

Do charter schools cater to a range of academic learning levels?

 Yes. Charter schools apply teaching methods to meet the needs of ALL students. Foundation Academies serves students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), 504 Accommodation Plans, and English Language Learner (ELL) services. Upon enrollment, your child’s educational plan will be tailored to fit his or her individual needs.

How are charter schools governed?

Charter schools are governed by an independent non-profit board of trustees, authorized by the Commissioner of Education (NJDOE), and run on four- to five-year performance contracts.

Do charter schools have to follow state laws?

Yes. Charter schools are subject to state laws related to health, safety, civil rights, certification, academic standards, and student assessment.

Do I need to live in Trenton to apply?

No, you are not required to live in Trenton to apply. Foundation Academies students can live anywhere in the State of New Jersey. However, Trenton residents get first priority for admission. If spaces remain after the admission of all eligible Trenton residents, non-resident applicants -  also selected by lottery - may be admitted. 

How does the lottery system and Wait List work?

Each applicant is assigned a random number for the lottery held annually during the month of March. Students are placed in the order in which their number was drawn to fill the available open spaces.

 

For example:

Your child has applied for a seat in the 5th grade. If their lottery number is selected first in the lottery drawing, he/she will be admitted, as long as there is a space available in 5th grade. 

 

If a space is not available in the 5th grade, your child will not be admitted, unless and until a seat becomes available (which can happen at any time during the school year). In this case, your child will be placed on the Wait List. 

 

Your child will remain on the Wait List until the end of the school year, at which time the Wait List expires.

How will I know if my child is admitted if I am not at the lottery?

Attendance at the lottery is not mandatory and has no effect on your child’s potential for admission. If your child is admitted, Foundation Academies staff will contact you regarding admission and completing the enrollment packet.