Hawaii Public Charter Schools FAQs

What is a charter school?

In Hawaii, charter schools are public schools, funded on a "per-pupil" allocation separate from the Department of Education.  They are state-legislated, legally independent, innovative, outcome-based public schools operating under contract with the State Public Charter School Commission (SPCSC).

Do charter schools charge tuition?

No. Charter schools are public schools, and state law explicitly prohibits them from charging tuition.

How are charter schools different than traditional DOE schools?

Charter schools operate on three basic principles:

  • Choice: Charter schools give families the opportunity to choose the school most suitable for their children's educational well being. Teachers choose to create and work at schools where they directly shape the best working and learning environment for their students and themselves.

  • Accountability: Charter schools are judged on how well they meet the academic, financial, and organizational performance expectations set forth in their charter performance contracts.  Additionally, because charter schools are schools of choice, another measure of accountability is student enrollment - if students and their families are unhappy, they can choose to go elsewhere.

  • Autonomy: While charter schools must adhere to the same federal laws and regulations and state standards as all other public schools, they have flexibility with curriculum and direct management of energy and resources, allowing them to be innovative.

How can I apply to have my child attend a charter school?

Contact the school that you are interested in directly.  If you are unsure what schools are in your area or which school would be best for your child, use our directory of schools to find the locations, and contact the schools directly to find out what their programs offer.

How can I apply to work at a charter school?

Each charter school does its own hiring.  It is best to contact the schools that you are interested in working at directly using our directory of schools.  Also, many schools post their job openings in the employment opportunities section.

How do I start a charter school?

If you are interested in starting a charter school, you must apply to the SPCSC, Hawaii's only statewide charter authorizer. For more information, please click here

Does the State Public Charter School Commission (SPCSC) oversee the charter schools?

Yes, to a degree.  Each charter school is directly overseen by its own governing board.  Each governing board has a performance contract with the SPCSC.  The performance contracts describe the responsibilities and requirements, including state and federal laws, of governing boards. The SPCSC holds governing boards accountable to these contracts.

Who oversees the charter schools?

Each charter school has its own individual governing body called a governing board.  Each governing board is under a performance contract with the SPCSC. The SPCSC, as a charter authorizer, has oversight authority over each governing board.  The SPCSC is accountable to the Board of Education.

What do I do if I have a complaint about a charter school or someone in a charter school?

First, the principal of the school in question should be contacted and preferably met with.  If you would like to take the issue further because you feel that it is still unresolved, contact the school's governing board.  Each school should have its governing board's contact information available.  If you need further assistance from the SPCSC with a complaint, submit your complaint using our complaint form.

What does it mean if a charter school is/is not accredited?

Accreditation means a number of things, and a detailed explanation can be found in the Accreditation section.  While accreditation is encouraged, charter schools can still offer viable educational programs without it.  Also, contrary to popular misconceptions, diplomas received from non-accredited public schools, including charter schools, are still valid diplomas.

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​State Public Charter School Commission


1164 Bishop Street, Suite 1100

Honolulu, HI 96813

Tel: 808-586-3775

Fax: 808-586-3776

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* The Commission gratefully acknowledges  former Commissioner, Dr. Peter Hanohano, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs for the translation of the Commission’s name.

© 2013 by SPCSC. All rights reserved.