Charter schools are public, tuition-free schools that are open to all students. One way public charter schools differ from traditional schools is that they have greater flexibility to nurture students' interests and put their unique needs first.
In exchange for that freedom, the State of Texas holds public charter schools accountable to higher standards for academic, financial, and managerial performance. Public charter schools are governed by oversight boards made up of parents, teachers, and community members.
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What are Public Charter Schools?
Accountability for Public Charter Schools vs. ISDs
Public Charter School Governing Boards
All Texas public charter schools are not-for-profit schools. Though for-profit charter schools are allowed in some other states, they are not allowed here.
Under Texas law, open-enrollment charters may only be operated by one of four types of entities. Those entities include public institutions of higher education, private or independent institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations, or governmental entities. Currently, there are 179 open-enrollment charter schools: 172 schools run by nonprofits, six schools run by universities, and one school run by a municipality.
Texas public charter schools provide tuition-free public school options to students and families. That’s why they’re often called “open-enrollment” charter schools—because they are open to all students.
Texas public charter schools cost taxpayers less than traditional ISDs. Unlike traditional ISDs, which are funded through state and local taxes, public charter schools receive only state funding and no local funds from property taxes. Given this inequity, public charter schools cost taxpayers less overall than traditional ISDs.
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Public charter school funding in Texas
Yes. Public charter schools provide a tuition-free education option for students and their families. Since charter schools are free and open to all students, they are often called “open-enrollment” charter schools.
Public charter schools allow any school-aged children to attend if they live within the charter school’s geographic boundary, which is approved by the state.
Under the Texas Education Code, open-enrollment charter schools cannot discriminate in their admission policies based on “sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, disability, academic, artistic, or athletic ability, or the district the child would otherwise attend.”
No. Public charter schools do not cherry pick students and are legally prohibited from selecting students based on academic ability or other preferences.
If the number of applications exceeds the number of available seats at a public charter school, the charter school holds a random lottery to fill seats. Therefore, charters by law may not choose high-performing students to fill their classrooms.
There are two minor exceptions to accepting all students by random lottery. First, students who are children of founders, children of teachers and staff, or siblings of a student already admitted to the charter school are exempt from the lottery process. Second, students with very serious discipline histories may be exempt--as unlike ISDs, charter schools do not receive any funding to provide Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs (DAEPs) to support these students.
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The Truth About Charter School Success
Public charter schools do not have any overall negative impact on the enrollment, budgets, or academics of traditional public schools. Charter schools ARE public schools. They are simply another option for families within the public education system.
There is no proof of traditional ISD campuses closing due only to increases in charter enrollment. And research has shown that Texas school districts that contain public charter schools are outperforming those that don’t.
Yes, public charter schools enroll minority students. In fact, Texas charter schools enroll higher percentages of underserved students across all demographics.
Additionally, Texas public charter schools are helping historically-underserved students achieve at a higher level. Low-income students, students of color, special education students, and English learners all attend college at significantly higher rates when they attend a charter school.
Black students at public charter schools perform better than their Independent School District (ISD) peers in every subject (math, science, reading, and writing).
Learn more about:
The Success of Black Students at Texas Charter Schools
Rates of College Attendance for Charter School Students
Yes, public charter schools offer services for students with special needs. In fact, eight percent of students in Texas public charter schools are students with special needs—a similar rate as traditional public schools.
Students with special needs who attend Texas charter schools are nearly twice as likely to attend college as their peers in traditional school districts.
Yes, public charter schools enroll significantly more ELLs than traditional public schools. Charter schools are particularly well-equipped to serve these students. Thanks to their autonomy, flexibility, and resources, charter schools can adapt to meet the English language instruction needs of students and their families.
Students who are learning English and attend Texas charter schools are nearly twice as likely to attend college as their peers in traditional public schools.