What is a Charter School?

teacher working with student

Open-enrollment charter schools are free public schools that have the flexibility to adapt to the educational needs of individual students. Open-enrollment charter schools vary in mission and model, serving a wide range of students, many with needs beyond the one-size-fits-all traditional public school. Often, these charter schools provide a personalized learning environment that promotes greater student achievement. Although charter schools have some autonomy, they still must meet the rigorous academic standards dictated by the state for all public schools.

On charter campuses, school leaders are permitted more freedom in managing their school, allowing them to respond in the best interest of both parents and students. Teachers at charter schools are encouraged to structure lessons to the specific needs of their students. Some charter schools even provide curriculum that specializes in a certain field such as the arts, mathematics or science. Others provide a more efficient, general education based on the educational model set forth in the charter. 

Charter schools offer quality, non-traditional public education options

Charter schools receive state funds based on the average daily attendance of students (same as traditional public schools); however, they do not receive funds from local tax revenue and the majority, including Texas charters, do not receive state facilities funding. A recent independent analysis of revenue differences between charter school districts and independent school districts reveals a persistent funding gap exists. An average charter school in Texas receives an estimated $1500 less per student than independent school districts when examining general funds.

Public charter schools were authorized by the Texas Legislature in 1995 to provide more choice and options in public education. Texas has a state cap of 215 open-enrollment charters with multiple campuses per charter. Open enrollment charters serve approximately 154,000 students on approximately 460 campuses across the state. In the State of Texas, charter schools operate under and receive academic accountability ratings from the Texas Education Agency. Both charter and traditional public school students in Texas take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests.

Enrollment in Texas charter schools continues to increase as more families want options. This year, there are more than 101,000 students on waiting lists. Seats per charter are limited by their charter agreement with the state, and where there is more interest than space, admission is frequently allocated by lottery-based admissions.