It used to be a given: When your kids reached school age, they'd strap on their backpacks and head for the neighborhood elementary school. Or, you'd pay a hefty tuition to send them to private school.
In the last two decades, a third option has emerged. Today, there are more than 6,000 charter schools in the country. And lately, they've been the subject of passionate and often acrimonious debate about the right way to fix public education in America.