About Charter Schools

Student Achievement

New York City has one of the highest performing charter school sectors in the country. The City’s charters continue to score higher than district school students in a large majority of communities across the city, often by very large margins. This can now be considered a long-term trend that is especially evident in the three areas of New York City where the majority of charter schools are located: Harlem, Central Brooklyn, and the South Bronx.


Demand for Charter Schools

The demand for public charter schools in New York City continues to rapidly outpace the number of available seats, even as more charter schools continue to open.Over 70,700 students—a record number—applied for one of approximately 21,000 available charter school seats in the 2014-2015 school year. More than 49,700 students are on waitlists.

Lottery Report

The Enrollment Process

There is no centralized system for enrollment for New York City’s charter schools. Each school sets its own application process and deadline. Parents should contact each school individually to inquire about their admissions’ process. If there are more student applications to a charter school than seats available, the school must choose their students through a random lottery.

New York’s charter law requires charter schools in NYC to give preference to returning students, siblings of students already enrolled in the school and students who reside in the local Community School District in which the charter school is located. In addition, charter schools are permitted to give preference to students at risk of academic failure. This includes English Language Learners (ELL), students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunch and students who did not score at the proficient level on the state tests. During the application process, parents should inquire about a school’s preferences.

History of Charter Schools in NYC

New York State passed its Charter Schools Act in December of 1998, allowing for 100 charters to be authorized throughout the state. In the fall of 1999, the Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem was the first charter school to open in New York.

Since 1999, New York’s charter school movement has grown rapidly, with an average of 11 charter schools opening in NYC annually. The initial limit on charter schools was reached in the fall of 2006. In March of 2007, the cap was raised to allow an additional 100 charters to be authorized state-wide, for a total of 200. In the summer of 2010, New York State raised the cap on charter schools for a second time as part of its efforts to win the federal Race to the Top initiative (which it did). New York State’s two authorizers are now permitted to authorize up to 460 charters.

There are currently 208 charters operating in New York State, 197 of which are located in New York City.

NYS Charter School Law

What Are Charter Schools?

Charter schools are free public schools open to all New York City children.

Though public, they are not run by the NYC Department of Education. Charter schools operate independently, according to the terms of a performance contract or “charter.” Charter schools commit to meeting specific academic goals set by New York State, including raising student achievement, then make their own decisions about how to achieve them. If the goals are not met, the charter may be revoked and the school closed.

Because they are independent from the district system, charter schools have greater flexibility in the way they operate. Charter schools are free to develop their own academic program, choose staff, set educational goals, offer a longer school day and school year, and establish their own standards for student behavior.

The combination of freedom and account­ability for success allows charter schools to respond to community needs, try new approaches, and put students’ learning first.

Charter School FAQ