How Schools are Governed and Funded

How Schools are Governed and Funded
Explore the differences in governance and funding models between charter schools, traditional public schools, and private K-12 schools. Gain insights into how these factors shape educational experiences and outcomes for students.

As the education landscape evolves, it is essential to examine different schooling options and understand their strengths, weaknesses, and overall impact on students' educational experiences. In this article, we will compare three primary education models: charter schools, traditional public schools, and private K-12 schools, concerning governance and funding.

Charter Schools

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that operate under a charter or contract, which grants them increased autonomy and flexibility compared to traditional public schools. Individuals, organizations, or groups typically establish charter schools with a specific educational vision or focus.

Charter schools are independent public schools free to innovate while being held accountable for improved student achievement. They foster a culture of creativity, flexibility, and autonomy that allows teachers and school leaders to design and implement effective educational models tailored to the needs of their students. - National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Governance Structure

Charter schools usually have their governing boards responsible for making important decisions regarding curriculum, budget allocation, hiring, and overall school policies. These boards can include parents, community members, educators, and experts from various fields. The thin governance structure allows for more localized decision-making. It promotes flexibility in responding to the needs of students and the community than is possible in an administration with more layers of management.

Flexibility in Curriculum and Management

One of the key features of charter schools is their flexibility in designing their curriculum and educational approach. Charter schools can develop specialized programs, such as STEM-focused, arts-integrated, or Montessori-inspired curricula, tailored to their students' needs and interests. This flexibility allows for innovation and experimentation in teaching methods and educational practices.

Funding Mechanisms

Charter schools receive public funding, but the specific funding mechanisms can vary depending on the state and district. In some cases, charter schools receive per-pupil funding from the government, similar to traditional public schools. However, they may also rely on additional funding sources such as grants, donations, or partnerships with private organizations. It's worth noting that the funding for charter schools is often tied to enrollment, which means that fluctuations in student numbers can impact their financial stability.


Charter schools' governance and funding structure provides opportunities for increased autonomy, innovation, and tailored educational programs. However, the variability in funding and potential reliance on external sources can introduce financial uncertainties. Additionally, the autonomy of charter schools can raise concerns about accountability, transparency, and potential disparities in resource distribution.

This video explains charter schools.

Traditional Public Schools

Local, state, and federal government entities establish and fund traditional public schools. They operate within a framework of regulations, policies, and guidelines set by governmental authorities.

Public schools play a critical role in providing an accessible and equitable education to all students. They serve as the cornerstone of our democratic society, fostering social integration and promoting equal opportunities for learners of diverse backgrounds. Public schools aim to provide a quality education that prepares students for college, career, and civic engagement while upholding the values of inclusivity, diversity, and community engagement. - National Education Association (NEA)

Governance Structure

Local school boards or district administrations typically govern traditional public schools. These boards consist of elected or appointed officials who make decisions on behalf of the community. The decision-making process in public schools is often influenced by bureaucratic structures and administrative hierarchies, which can impact the speed and flexibility of implementing changes.

Bureaucracy and Regulations

Due to their public nature, traditional public schools must adhere to various regulations and policies mandated by governmental entities. While these regulations ensure specific standards and accountability, they can also create challenges and limitations regarding curriculum development, instructional approaches, and decision-making processes. Due to bureaucratic procedures, public schools may need more support in implementing innovative teaching methods or tailored programs.

Funding Sources

Traditional public schools primarily rely on public funds allocated by the government. The funding is usually based on student enrollment, district demographics, and state-level funding formulas. However, the funding for public schools can vary significantly between districts and states, leading to potential disparities in resource allocation and educational opportunities.


Traditional public schools' governance structure and reliance on public funding can present advantages and challenges. The democratic governance model allows for community representation and input but can lead to slower decision-making processes and potential conflicts of interest. Additionally, budget constraints and unequal funding distribution can affect the availability of resources and programs, impacting the quality of education in certain areas.

This TEDTalk explains public schools.

Private K-12 Schools

Private K-12 schools are independently operated educational institutions funded through private means, such as tuition fees, donations, and endowments. They are not subject to government regulations and have more autonomy in decision-making.

Private schools offer families an educational choice that often emphasizes strong academics, character development, and individualized attention. They provide an environment where parents and educators work together to create a personalized learning experience that meets the unique needs of each student. Private schools strive to cultivate a sense of community, foster a love of learning, and prepare students for future success. - National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)

Autonomy and Governance Structure

Private schools have greater autonomy in determining their educational philosophies, curriculum, and policies. They are often governed by boards of trustees, including educators, parents, alumni, and community members. This governance structure allows private schools to make decisions more efficiently and align their educational approach with their specific mission and values.

Role of Private Funding and Tuition Fees

Private schools rely on various funding sources, primarily tuition fees paid by parents or guardians. The amount of tuition varies depending on factors like the school's reputation, location, facilities, and extracurricular offerings. In addition to tuition income, private schools also receive financial support through donations, grants, and endowments. Private funding grants these schools financial independence, enabling them to invest in resources, facilities, and specialized programs.


The autonomy granted by private funding allows private schools to offer unique educational experiences. Smaller class sizes, specialized programs, and a focus on individual attention are often cited as advantages of private schools. However, the reliance on tuition fees and private funding can create financial barriers and limit access to students from lower-income backgrounds. The lack of government oversight also raises questions about accountability and equity in terms of admissions and educational opportunities.


Examining the governance and funding structures of charter schools, traditional public schools, and private K-12 schools highlights the varying levels of autonomy, decision-making processes, and financial considerations associated with each model. Understanding these aspects is crucial for stakeholders to evaluate the strengths and challenges of each educational system and work towards creating inclusive, high-quality learning environments for all students.

This video explains private schools.

Questions? Contact us on Facebook. @publicschoolreview

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