What is a Charter School?

  • Charter Schools are Public Schools 

    Click here for a short video on Charter Schools 101

    The Texas charter school policy was created in 1995 legislation with the purpose to bring some reforms to the state public education system.  Charter schools are free from some of the local and state regulations that apply to traditional public schools.  For example, a charter school can set their enrollment limit, establish a specific academic program it will offer, and their governing body is appointed and not elected.  In return for this autonomy, charter schools are held to a higher level of accountability for their academic and financial performances.

    The Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education are the "authorizers" that grant school charters and oversee their performances.  To open a charter school, the potential operator must be granted a school "charter" contract with the authorizer.  Charter schools must be owned and operated by private, not-for-profit organizations, universities or traditional public school districts. 

    The Texas Education Code (Section 12.001) states that charter schools have five purposes:

    1.  improve student learning;
    2.   increase the choice of learning opportunities within the public school system;
    3.   create professional opportunities that will attract new teachers to the public school system;
    4.   establish a new form of accountability for public schools; and
    5.   encourage different and innovative learning methods.

    With freedom from some regulations, and a private board governance structure, charter schools were designed to be more nimble and to quickly distribute new instructional techniques that are proven to be more effective.

    Charter schools are not allowed to promote any religion, unlike many private schools. Charter schools do not charge tuition.  They are funded by taxpayers, as are traditional public schools.  However, Texas charter schools do not receive as much funding as traditional public schools. 

    Charter schools are not magnet schools.  While some charters may have characteristics similar to public magnet do not have to accept all students.  Even charter schools that "target" specific populations, such as college bound, drop out recovery, gifted and talented, or at-risk students, are required to follow an "open enrollment" policy.

    Texas Charter School Association:   www.txcharterschool.org