How to Start a Charter

    Since 1995 when Texas lawmakers first launched public charter schools, schools have been charged with the duty to:
    • 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 for public schools; and
    • encourage different and innovative learning methods.
    Texas Education Code, Section 12.001.
    How to Start a Charter - online training module 
    This mission continues today with some of the very best charter schools in the nation currently operating in Texas. It is because of courageous people like you that the charter movement continues to grow and prosper making a difference in the lives of so many children in Texas. Your ambitious voyage to start an open enrollment charter school begins with the charter application. The Network is here to help you.

    Currently, there is a cap (215) on the number of 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations in Texas that can operate open-enrollment charter schools. It is for this reason that applying for an open enrollment charter school is a highly competitive process. The State Board of Education (SBOE), which is charged with the authorization of open enrollment charter schools, typically announces any decision to open an application process during its September meeting, although it might be earlier. It is important to know that there is no guarantee that the SBOE will open a charter school application round every year.

    The Network recommends the following steps for applicants looking forward and intending to submit a Generation 20 Charter School Application likely due late February, 2015:

  • Potential applicants should start reviewing the TEA website for charter school information and alerts. This will get you familiar with the requirements for obtaining and operating a charter. You can never start too early! Applying for a charter school is a lengthy process.
  • Establish a non-profit organization and secure tax exemption from the IRS under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. These two steps can take a considerable amount of time, up to nine months, so it is essential to get started early. We encourage you to identify board members who will be capable of overseeing the management of a robust and multi-faceted organization.
  • Review the Successful Charter School Applications for open enrollment charter schools. Reviewing successful applications will provide you a good sense of what quality applications look like. In addition, you should start to assemble a planning team for responding to the application questions and required appendices. Generally, preparing and submitting a complete and compelling charter school application takes several months of planning and development. If your team is not ready, consider starting today so that you can submit a strong application in a future cycle.
  • Plan to attend the Texas Education Agency (TEA) mandatory Charter Applicant Information Session. Attendance is only required at one of the sessions. At least one member of the governing board of the sponsoring entity requesting the charter must attend one of the required applicant conferences. Although not required, it is recommended that the application preparer also attend an applicant conference. If a board member of the non-profit does not attend this meeting, TEA will not accept a charter school application from the developing group.
  • Attend a beginner training session hosted by The Network on starting a charter school. This training is for potential applicants during the Generation 20 cycle or those considering a Generation 21 submission. This training is designed to provide attendees with competitive advice for completing the best application possible. To find out about upcoming trainings, view the Network Training Calendar.

  • More Information about Submitting an Application:

    The following links provide important information to note when submitting an application:
    • Applications deemed to be complete will advance to the external review phase of the review process. Each application will be evaluated by five independent reviewers, each using the Charter Application Evaluation Overview and Criteria document (PDF, 1,670 KB).
    • Applicants whose application qualifies for external review but does not contain a 501(c)(3) determination letter issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) must provide the determination letter from the IRS on or before April 15, 2015, in order to be eligible for an interview.The process of establishing a nonprofit entity is a lengthy process. The IRS oversees the 501(c)(3) process.  
    • An application must describe an education program that is unique to the applicant.
    • The TEA defines plagiarism as the representation of the words or ideas of another as one's own in an application. 
    • The agency is cognizant that in order to implement an existing curriculum, instructional framework, or educational model with fidelity, key concepts must be discussed.  However, it is not acceptable to copy and paste this discussion or description from another source. To avoid plagiarism, every direct quotation must be identified by quotation marks or by appropriate indentation, and must be cited properly. Acknowledgment is also required when material from any source is paraphrased or summarized in whole or in part in one's own words.

    Selected Laws and Rules Applicable to Open-Enrollment Charters

    The links below reference some of the laws and rules that apply to charters: