To further promote local initiative, the 1995 revision of the Texas Education Code established a new type of public school, known as a charter school. Charter schools are subject to fewer state laws than other public schools, with the idea of ensuring fiscal and academic accountability without undue regulation of instructional methods or pedagogical innovation. Like school districts, charter schools are monitored and accredited under the statewide testing and accountability system.
According to the Texas Education Code, the purposes of charter schools are to (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.
1. What is a charter school?
A charter school is a public school of choice that operates independently under a charter agreement with the State of Texas and the Texas Education Agency. Parents can opt to enroll their children in a charter school without paying tuition, since charter schools are supported with state tax revenue. Charter schools are subject to the same state and federal academic accountability standards as traditional public schools and are guided by their own unique mission statements.
2. What are the purposes of charter schools?
The purposes of charter schools are to: (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.
3. How long have charter schools been in existence?
The Texas Legislature authorized the establishment of charter schools in 1995, and some of the “first generation” charter schools have been in operation since the fall of 1996.
Life School opened its doors in the fall of 1998 and is a second generation charter school.
4. Are there different types of charter schools?
Yes. Four classes of charters are authorized by the Texas Education Code: (1) home-rule school district charters; (2) campus or campus program charters; (3) open-enrollment charters; and (4) college or university charters. There are currently no schools operating under home-rule school district charters. The boards of trustees of several independent school districts have granted campus or campus program charters. Most of the charter schools in Texas operate under open-enrollment charters which are granted by the State Board of Education. Two charters have been awarded to a senior university. The remainder of these FAQs will focus on open-enrollment charters, as the Texas Education Agency is more directly involved with these charters.
Life School is an “open-enrollment charter” as listed under (3).
5. Who may be granted an open-enrollment charter?
The State Board of Education may grant an open-enrollment charter to one of the following types of entities: an institution of higher education; a governmental entity; or a non-profit corporation that has tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
A majority of the open-enrollment charters that have been granted are held by non-profit corporations; however, several open-enrollment charters have been awarded to universities and governmental entities. (Note: Senior public universities may also apply for college or university charters under Chapter 12, Subchapter E).