There is a lot of talk recently about charter schools at the national level. It will be some time before we know what, if anything, might change at the national level regarding charter schools. However, it is important to understand the current status of charter schools in Texas.

Since 2005, Texas law has allowed charter schools. They are run by a variety of organizations, including some public schools. They receive state funds based on student attendance like public schools, but do not collect property taxes. They cannot charge tuition, so they have less funds per student than public schools.

Any student can apply to attend a charter school if they live within the school’s attendance zone. The school’s charter will specify the zone and any exceptions to who can apply. Charter schools do not always serve K-12.

Discrimination is prohibited in the admissions policy. A charter must use a lottery process when the number of applications exceeds the number of available spaces.

Once a student is admitted to a charter school and has registered and enrolled, the enrollment process begins. It is only then that the school may request information about past academic achievement, medical history, etc.

Section 504 prohibits charters from refusing to enroll students with disabilities, or pushing them out or encouraging them to leave the school.

Teachers at an open-enrollment charter school must have at least a baccalaureate degree unless they are a special education or bilingual education/ESL teacher. These teachers must also have state certification. The governing body of a charter holder may set the qualifications for teachers at a standard above what state law requires.

The initial law approved up to 225 charter school holders (no cap on the number of campuses they can have). In 2013 the cap was increased to 305. In 2015-16 there were 631 charter school campuses serving 247,389 of the 5.1 million students in the state:

  • 58.9% of the students were Hispanic,
  • 19.4% African American,
  • White 15.2%,
  • Asian 4.6%,
  • 69% of the students are economically disadvantaged
  • 50% of the students were identified as at risk of dropping out of school, and
  • 21.% were in bilingual or English as a 2nd language classes

Over 10 years, the percent of African American students dropped from 36.5% to 19.4% and Hispanic enrollment went from 44.9% to 58.9%.

The percentage of special education students dropped from 11% to 6.5% over 10 years.

In 2013, a law authorized 5 grants for charter schools primarily serving students with disabilities. I have not found anything that indicates if any of these grants have been issued.

Texas has an adult, high-school diploma and industry certification charter pilot program for adults 19-50 years of age.

Please let us know if you have any questions or comments about charter schools in Texas!

Article by Chuck Noe, PRN Education Specialist