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older uses refer to schools in Ireland begun 1733 by the Charter Society to provide Protestant education to poor Catholic children. Modern use in U.S. began c.1988, as an alternative to state-run public education.
By 2003 more than 684,000 U.S. students attended charter schools-publicly funded schools that pledged better academic results and were unencumbered by many of the regulations governing ordinary public schools. The aim of the nearly 2,700 charter schools in the U.S. was to furnish educators with the freedom to create novel ways of organizing teaching in an effort to yield better student performance and greater parent satisfaction than that typically produced by regular public schools. Operators of charter schools were granted such freedom by committing themselves-in the form of a written charter-to a variety of conditions that, they predicted, would produce superior learning outcomes. The conditions agreed with those identified in charter-school legislation passed by state or local lawmakers.