What is a charter school?

Charter schools are schools of choice, schools that families have the opportunity to choose as the best option for their own children.

The first charter schools came into being in the early 1990s; since that time, the vast majority of states have passed laws allowing for the creation of charter schools. In the last three decades, charter schools have grown into a viable alternative to traditional public schools, offering families an opportunity to choose curriculum, educational models, and academic environments that would otherwise be unavailable. Hillsdale College-affiliated charter schools provide an excellent classical education, a rare thing in public education today.

Charter schools are tuition-free, just like traditional public schools. Enrollment in charter schools is open to all students who apply. When enrollment demand exceeds school capacity, charter schools typically select students through a random lottery process.

Can I start a charter school?

Anyone interested in starting a charter school should begin by learning about state and local laws, and how these bear on the possibility of starting a school. While most states and the District of Columbia have laws permitting charter schools, not all of these laws are the same.

As you consider whether or not a new charter school is a viable project in your area, consider the following questions:

  • How much funding is available per pupil to charter schools? If this is less than 80% of the funding available to traditional public schools, will you be able to offset or afford the difference without passing the costs to your enrolled families?
  • How much flexibility do charter schools have in hiring teachers and administrators? How much flexibility do charter schools have in paying them?
  • What charter authorizers are available? Are any of them interested in or sympathetic to your mission, vision, and potential school population?
  • What are your state’s curriculum standards, and how will these influence your ability to select curriculum?

For more information about founding a school with training from Hillsdale College, visit Founding a Hillsdale Classical School.

Schools and school-founding efforts seeking to become Hillsdale College Member Schools or Curriculum Schools should address their inquiries to [email protected]

What type of support does Hillsdale College offer to schools?

Hillsdale College offers two types of support to schools across the country. The first type of support, "Curriculum Schools," comes through an institutional license to use the Hillsdale College K-12 Curriculum. The second type of support, "Member Schools," includes training, consulting, and additional resources to complement a license to the Hillsdale College K-12 Curriculum. To find a school near you, visit the “Schools” page.

Where are Hillsdale College-affiliated schools?

Visit the “Schools” page to see where the schools are located.

Does Hillsdale have an online or homeschool K-12 program?

At this time Hillsdale College does not have an online or homeschool K-12 program. However, the College is currently adapting its classical curriculum for use at home. Until then, we have many resources to supplement a homeschool or online program. Please visit k12athome.hillsdale.edu for the latest resources available.

How does Hillsdale College determine its Member Schools?

Hillsdale College determines its assistance to candidate Member Schools through a formal application process that happens twice each year. In January and July, founding groups of both charter and private schools apply for Hillsdale K-12 support and are evaluated through a process that considers each group’s experience and potential, plus fertile ground for charter authorization (for charter schools) and student enrollment.

How do schools recruit classical teachers?

Hillsdale Member Schools seek the best teachers who are masters of their subject matter, enthusiastic, and eager to serve K-12 students. If a state requires certification for charter school teachers, then Hillsdale-affiliated charter schools comply with those regulations.

New teachers are often recent college graduates with sound learning from schools like Hillsdale College, adult professionals making a mid-life career change, and those already working in public and private schools who embrace classical education.

Interested in becoming a teacher in a Hillsdale Member school? Check out the Career Opportunities page.

Does Hillsdale College govern, own, or manage its affiliated schools?

The relationship between Hillsdale College and its affiliated schools is unique in the K-12 school world. The College does not own, govern, manage, or profit from any affiliated school. The College’s services to affiliated schools include consulting, curriculum, and training; these services are supported through gifts to Hillsdale College, and affiliated schools incur no financial obligation for receipt of these services.