Frequently Asked Questions
About Charter Schools
What is a charter School?
A charter school is an independent public school granted a charter by the local or state educational authority to focus on a particular mission. Creative Arts’ charter is granted, overseen, and reviewed every five years by the San Francisco Board of Education with the mandate to provide innovative project-based and arts-integrated education to students from under-served communities. We operate within and are a part of the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD).
How are charters different from other public schools?
Charters have autonomy in three key areas: curriculum development, financial management, and staffing. Creative Arts is governed by a Board of Directors and is answerable directly to the SF Board of Education, rather than to the Superintendent and SFUSD. While CACS is free to create its own curriculum, it is also measured by the same state standards and student testing. Our teachers are members of a union, and they are all state certified.
How are charters funded?
Like San Francisco Unified School District, charter schools receive per pupil funding. Charter school funding, however, lags behind that for traditional public schools. A 2012 report from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) summarized the funding inequities, noting a difference of at least 7%, or $395 per student, for categorical funding between California charter schools and traditional public schools. This does not include facility funding, federal funding, or local revenues, which often widen the funding gap.
Because of this situation, along with five years of budget cuts from the state, the cost of our program far exceeds funding from the state. We rely on extended community financial support to make up the difference.
How do students and families enroll in a charter school?
Charters are open to all and offer spaces at random through an independent admissions lottery. This lottery is separate from the main SFUSD lottery, but the two run in parallel. The CACS lottery is conducted with oversight by an SFUSD representative. To learn more about enrollment, please visit How to Apply.
My child has an Individual Education Plans (IEP), can I still apply to CACS?
Yes. When submitting your application, provide a copy of the most current IEP. We will review this document to ensure your child’s needs (as outlined in the IEP) are met.
How do I apply?
Submit a Creative Arts Charter School Student Application Form with required documentation. Applications are available at our scheduled tours, or are available via e-mail to families after they have completed a school tour. Please visit the How to Apply page for more information.
What is the time line for the application process?
Applications are accepted from the date of our first tour in September through January. To be eligible for the first lottery, you must submit a completed application with correct documentation by mid-January (official date to come soon). CACS conducts its lottery in March and mails offers by mid-March. Offers continue to be sent until all spaces are filled.
Do I add Creative Arts to SFUSD’s enrollment application?
No. Creative Arts’ enrollment process is separate from the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) process. If you are applying to SFUSD, do not list CACS as one of your choices on SFUSD’s enrollment form.
If you are chosen in the lottery, you will receive a registration form from Creative Arts, which is also submitted to the SFUSD Educational Placement Center for inclusion in the SFUSD student database. Creative Arts students are part of SFUSD.
Does CACS accept students who do not live in San Francisco?
Yes. However, our application guidelines allow us to give admission preference to San Francisco residents. Accepted applicants who do not reside in San Francisco must apply for and receive an inter-district transfer from their home school district.
How does CACS select its students?
We conduct a random public lottery overseen by a district representative from the Educational Placement Center.
Are there preferences given to any students in the lottery process?
Yes. Please see our “Student Selection Priority Factors” on the How to Apply page.
How do students transfer to CACS?
Students who wish to transfer to CACS must submit a fully completed application with correct documentation. Please submit an application as soon as you decide you want to transfer. Transfer students not enrolled immediately will be placed on our waiting list.
If I miss the application deadline, can I still apply?
After mid January (Official deadline tbd), CACS continues to accept applications through mid-June. After that time, the enrollment office is closed until the start of the next school year. Contact us directly to apply before the next application period
How is CACS Governed?
CACS is governed by a Board of Directors, the majority of whom are parents directly elected by the membership. The Board’s operations are guided by the school’s bylaws.