Patrick08 - the member who asked this question - selected this as the best answer posted by another Education.com member.
from a fellow member
Charter schools actually are public schools. They receive funding from the state just like traditional public schools and students don't have to pay to attend. Charter schools are accountable for their results in the same way that other public schools are but they're typically granted a bit more flexibility in how they run the school.
Students apply to charter schools rather than being assigned to the school based on where they live. If more kids apply than the school has space for, there is typically a lottery to determine which students will be accepted.
Charter schools tend to have kind of a "theme". They may focus heavily on math, science, or the the arts. Some focus on outdoor education, some focus on project based learning or group project learning, some focus on catering to students' individual learning styles.
Charter schools can be a GREAT alternative if you're not happy with your child's neighborhood school but you can't or don't want to pay for private school.
Hope this helps!
PS I just found this article that you might find helpful.
Here is some information about charter schools from KIPP Bay Area's website.
"Charter schools are independent public schools open to all students regardless of their prior academic record, conduct, or socioeconomic background. There are no admission tests or tuition fees. Parents and students choose to attend a particular charter school because of its unique focus, curriculum, structure, size, environment, or other features that meet the needs of those families. Charter schools receive public funds based on the number of students they enroll, as do all California public schools. All KIPP schools in the Bay Area are charter schools.
Charter schools allow parents to choose the public schools that best meet their children’s academic needs. This choice creates competition among both public and private schools to help raise the bar and leads to improvement throughout the public educational system. Charter schools exist outside the traditional district system, giving them the flexibility to develop successful new models that work. If student achievement is not improving, charter schools can make quick, effective changes like modifying curriculum or making appropriate staff changes to improve student achievement."