What is a Charter School?
A Brief History
Charter schools were authorized by the Texas Legislature in 1995 to provide an alternative to traditional public schools. In total, an estimated 178,000 Texas students attend more than 550 open-enrollment charter schools (2013 AskTED data) with more than 101,000 additional students on waiting lists (2012 survey). As of 11/22/13, there are 205 active charters awarded with 3 additional charters awarded in November, for a total of 208 charters taken, leaving 7 charters available.
Enrollment in Texas charter schools continues to increase as more families seek non-traditional 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.
In the state of Texas, Charter schools operate under and receive academic accountability ratings from the Texas Education Agency (TEA). All charter students in Texas take the same Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests as traditional public school students, including the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exam, which will replace the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
Charter Schools Offer Quality, Non-Traditional Public Education Options
Charter schools vary in mission and models; serving a wide range of students, including those with needs beyond the one-size-fits-all traditional public school. Charter schools often provide a more structured learning environment that promotes greater student discipline. Some charter schools even provide a 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.
Although charters have more autonomy in choosing their curriculum, charter schools have the same level of accountability to the state as other 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.
How Are Charter Schools Funded?
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 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.
According to TEA’s 2011-2012 Actual Financial Data Reports, Katy Independent School District's revenue was $9,441 per student while Aristoi Classical Academy’s revenue was $8,314 per student in the same year. That constitutes a total of $495,880 more to Katy ISD for the same number of students at Aristoi Classical Academy.
What is the Purpose of Charter Schools?*
- Improve student learning
- Increase the choice of learning opportunities within the public school system
- Create professional opportunities that will attract new teachers to the public school system
- Establish a new form of accountability
- Encourage different and innovative learning methods
*Texas Education Code § 12.001