Academy of Tucson Schools

Provide • Prepare • Graduate

The Complete 2020 Guide to Tucson, Arizona Public Charter Schools

2020 has brought significant changes to K-12 education and this is causing a lot of parents to consider what education options are available for their children. There are many options available to parents, their local public schools, public charter schools, private schools and online schools.

We have put together this guide to help you understand what options are available for your child and help you understand more about public charter schools and how your child (or children) could attend. Tuition-free public charter schools provide unique learning approaches that are an excellent fit for many children. We want to make the enrollment process as simple as possible by providing accurate information for parent’s most frequently asked questions.

This guide will provide answers to questions like, “What is a tuition-free public school?”, “What tuition-free public school options are available in Arizona?” and “How do I enroll my student in charter school?”

If you are looking for answers to questions like these, read on!

What is a tuition-free public charter school in Arizona?

The first question we often get is “What is a tuition-free public charter school?” We know it can be hard to distinguish between the different schooling options, so let us help., which is a nonprofit membership and professional organization that advocates and strengthens the autonomy, equity, and quality of Arizona’s diverse public charter schools, offers this definition of tuition-free public charter schools in Arizona,

Charter schools are public schools that are innovative while still being held accountable for improved student achievement. Charter schools are funded by the state and free to all Arizona students. They vary in mission and model, serving a wide range of students.

With 547 public charter schools serving over 180,000 students, charters play an integral role in shaping the lives of Arizona’s youth.

What tuition-free public charter schools are available for students living in Arizona?

Almost every child, if they live in Arizona, has a public charter school available for them to attend. That being said, ideally, you will be able to find a great public charter school close to home.

Tucson has a number of great tuition-free public charter schools including the Academy of Tucson Schools which has an elementary, middle and high school and whose purpose is to Provide, Prepare and Graduate. The Academy of Tucson does so by:

Provide - A faculty of respected, encouraging and caring educators in a safe and supportive learning environment. Prepare - Students for a knowledge-based, multicultural global economy. Graduate - Students who are educated, responsible future leaders, contributors to society and lifelong learners.

Prepare - Students for a knowledge-based, multicultural global economy.

Graduate - Students who are educated, responsible future leaders, contributors to society and lifelong learners.

The Arizona Department of Education also provides a charter school finder on their website for you to search for additional charter school options.

Are public charter schools free in Arizona? Is there tuition?

Yes! Cost is obviously a critical component of school selection and so it is important to know that tuition-free public charter schools are free in Arizona for eligible students.

Can anyone go to a public charter school in Arizona?

Arizona’s public charter schools are required by law to accept all students and they must enroll and provide educational services to special education and English Learner students. A.R.S §15-184

What other counties and locations in Arizona are served by tuition-free public charter schools in Arizona?

Serving students across the entire state of Arizona is very important so they have been made available to students everywhere in the state. According to the Arizona Charter School Association, no matter where you live in Arizona, students have access to public charter schools.

How do I enroll my child in a tuition-free public charter school?

The enrollment process varies across schools, but we offer the following admissions checklist to help guide you through the enrollment process:

  • A certified copy of the student’s birth certificate OR other reliable proof of age and identity
  • Proof of Arizona residency -- more info here
  • Proof of immunization

You can get started enrolling with Academy of Tucson by visiting our admissions web page.

What are the requirements for acceptance into a charter school in Arizona?

By law, charter schools cannot have admission processes that unlawfully discriminate against students. Charter schools accept all students who want to attend. If there are more students who want to attend than there are seats available, a charter school will use a process to randomly select students, oftentimes a lottery system.

Are charter schools in Arizona accredited?

The Academy of Tucson is accredited by AdvancED Performance Accreditation. Accreditation is a voluntary method of quality assurance developed more than 100 years ago by American universities and secondary schools and designed primarily to distinguish schools adhering to a set of educational standards.

To be accredited, a school must meet high standards, engage in continuous improvement, and demonstrate quality assurance through external review. Administrators and teachers serve on visiting teams of other AdvancED schools, and the Academy has been called upon since 1990 to provide school leaders to assist in the ongoing improvement plans of many Arizona schools.

This professional experience provides us with great ideas and insight into best practices in achieving student academic success.

The 5 Standards:

Standard 1: Purpose and Direction - The school maintains and communicates a purpose and direction that commit to high expectations for learning, as well as shared values and beliefs about teaching and learning.

Standard 2: Governance and Leadership - The school operates under governance and leadership that promote and support student performance and school effectiveness.

Standard 3: Teaching and Assessing for Learning - The school’s curriculum, instructional design, and assessment practices guide and ensure teacher effectiveness and student learning.

Standard 4: Resources and Support Systems - The school has resources and provides services that support its purpose and direction to ensure success for all students.

Standard 5: Using Results for Continuous Improvement - The school implements a comprehensive assessment system that generates a range of data about student learning and school effectiveness and uses the results to guide continuous improvement

Since 1991, The Academy of Tucson has been continuously accredited without deficiency.

Are public charter schools high quality? Do public charter schools need to meet state standards?

The answer to both of these questions is yes! From,

Charter Students Boasted Larger NAEP Gains than Any State NAEP results show significant gains over the last eight years, with public charter students outperforming their district and private school peers in every grade level and on every subject tested. This trend is most evident in the scores for eighth-grade reading and math. When separated and measured as if they were their own state, Arizona charter students rank first in the nation in eighth-grade math, and second for eighth-grade reading.

And more from AZCharters.orgAnd more from

The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools was created through legislation in 1994 to grant charter status to qualifying applicants and to oversee public charter schools. Charter schools are public, state-funded schools that operate under a charter contract with a charter school sponsor or authorizer. The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools oversees more than 500 public charter schools throughout the state making it the largest authorizer in Arizona. Below are some facts about public charter school oversight.

Public Charter Schools…

  • must operate according to state and federal law and can be closed by the state for failing to meet student academic, operational or financial expectations. A.R.S. §15-183 (E)(R) 
  • must be governed by a local school board that makes financial, operational and academic decisions for the school. A.R.S. §15-183 (E)(8) must teach state standards and administer state assessments. A.R.S. §15-741 
  • must hold open meetings to approve budgets, expenditures for contracts and services. A.R.S. §15-183(E)(6) A.R.S. §15-905(B), (D), and (E) ; 
  • must post their annual budget on their webpage and submit to the Arizona Department of Education. A.R.S. §15-183(E) 
  • must have an independent, publicly available financial audit annually. A.R.S. §15-183 (E)(6) – Annual Audits 
  • must disclose related party transactions. A.R.S. §15-914 and Government Auditing Standards
  • operating as nonprofits, must file with the IRS and disclose conflict of interest and related-party transactions.
  • must conform to a uniform system of financial records as required by state and federal laws and generally accepted accounting principles. Auditor USFRCS

What is the difference between public schools and charter schools in Arizona?

Tuition-free public charter schools in Arizona are public schools, but they have more flexibility in choosing their mission and model of education.

But other public charter schools will have different missions and approaches. A great aspect of charter schools is that you can find the mission and values that work best for your child.

We hope this guide was useful in answering some of the basic questions related to public charter schools in Arizona. If you are interested in learning more about public charter schools for your child, please feel free to contact us.