20 years in development, Charter schools have grown more and more popular in the United States as an alternative opportunity for education. They are highly flexible when it comes to developing a system that specifically meets their students’ needs – some focus on college prep, some follow a STEM curriculum and others integrate the arts into each subject. They are able to achieve this by steering clear of traditional public school bureaucracy.
More than six months after COVID-19 hit, public schools are still determining a back-to-school(ish) plan. As Sean Gill and Lanya McKittrick of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington Bothell noted recently, within three weeks of school closures, 44% of Charter Schools had established comprehensive remote learning plans that included access to formal curriculum, instruction and progress monitoring. By the end of May, that number rose to 78%.
Innovation occurs outside the classroom, as well. Charter Schools have full reign with not only how they control their educational and organizational policies, but also how they manage their budget. Administrators and teachers in public schools have to adhere to centralized budgeting and purchasing, which oftentimes forces them to come out of pocket to make up for the difference in cost. On the backend, these transactions are also carefully tracked and audited. Charter schools, however, receive funding from boards of education, grants and fundraising, which better cover the costs of educating each student. This once again shows that they can apply not only a new approach to education, but in financial management, as well.
Many Charter Schools have also begun eliminating petty cash, as it’s an antiquated, highly inefficient process that requires careful record-keeping and a large amount of paperwork when it’s time to reconcile budgets. In its place, they’ve adapted an expense management system to control staff spending. This allows full visibility into spend – real-time, as well as the ability to transfer funds as soon as they’re needed. This type of transparency, along with an easy export to popular accounting software, further enables administrators to close the loop with a clean audit trail so they can focus on their most important job: educating our youth.