General FAQ

This page contains general questions about charter schools.

1. What is a charter school?
2. What are the purposes of charter schools?
3. How long have charter schools been in existence?
4. What is a charter generation?
5. Are there different types of charters?
6. Who may be granted an open-enrollment charter?
7. Is there a limit on how many open-enrollment charters the State Board of Education may grant?
8. How long is the term of an open-enrollment charter?
9. Can a charter be revoked before its term expires?
10. What are the procedures for filing a complaint against a charter school?
11. Are charters required to say the pledge of allegiance or have a moment of silence?
12. Could you please recommend a good charter school in my area?
13. How do I get a copy of my records from a charter school that is closed?

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1. What is a charter school?
A charter school is a type of public school. Charter schools provide education through a "charter," which is a type of contract granted by a chartering entity such as the State Board of Education (SBOE) or the board of trustees of an independent school district.

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.

4. What is a charter generation?
The generation refers to the year in which the charter was granted. Generation 1 charters were granted in 1996, Generation 2 in 1997, Generation 3 in 1998 and 1999, Generation 4, 5 and 6 in 2000, Generation 7 in 2001, Generation 8 in 2002, Generation 9 in 2003, Generation 10 in 2004, Generation 11 in 2005, Generation 12 in 2006, Generation 13 in 2007, Generation 14 in 2008, Generation 15 in 2010, Generation 16 in 2011, and Generation 17 in 2012.

5. Are there different types of charter schools?
Yes. Four classes of charters are authorized by the Texas Education Code (TEC): (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 SBOE. Three charters have been awarded to a senior university. The remainder of these FAQs will focus on open-enrollment charters as the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is more directly involved with these charters.

Contact either TEA or TCSA to find out more information about how to open a University or Junior College Charter, a District/Campus Charter, or a Home Rule District Charter.

 

Home Rule District Charter

A home-rule school district charter is a traditional local school district that has adopted a charter under which the entire district will operate. To form a home-rule district charter, a traditional district holds an election among registered voters on the proposed charter framed by a charter commission appointed by the school board of trustees. If approved by the voters, the district adopts, and operates under, the charter. A home-rule school district charter has yet to be formed in Texas.


District Campus or Campus Charters

A campus charter is a charter granted by the local school district board of trustees to operate either a new district campus or to operate a charter program within an existing campus. The board of trustees of a local school district may also grant a cooperative campus charter to parents and teachers at two or more campuses, if presented with a petition of a majority of the parents and classroom teachers at each school campus seeking to form the cooperative charter program.


Open-Enrollment Charter School

The State Board of Education may award an open-enrollment charter upon application by an "eligible entity" that meets certain eligibility, financial and operational criteria. The most common type of applicant is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization, but a governmental entity and institutions of higher education are also eligible to apply. There is a statutory cap of 215 on the number of open-enrollment charters the State Board of Education may award.


University or Junior College Charters

The State Board of Education may award a university or junior college charter to an eligible college, junior college or university that meets not only the financial, operational and governing standards required of an open-enrollment charter school, but also certain specific academic and operational criteria applicable only to university and junior college charters. A charter granted to a public university, college or junior college does not count toward the limit on the number of open-enrollment charter schools. There are currently five university or junior college charters operating multiple campuses throughout Texas.
 
 

6. Who may be granted an open-enrollment charter?
The Commissioner 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 colleges and universities may also apply for college or university charters under TEC Chapter 12, Subchapter E.)

7. Is there a limit on how many open-enrollment charters the State Board of Education may grant?
Yes. The SBOE may grant up to 215 open-enrollment charters. The cap of 215 was reached on November 21, 2008. For exact numbers, please reference the Charters Summary list on the Reports page.

8. How long is the term of an open-enrollment charter?
The term for an open-enrollment charter is not set out in statute; however, the current practice has been to grant open-enrollment charters for five-year periods and then to renew the charters for 10-year periods.

9. Can a charter be revoked before its term expires?
Yes. The Commissioner of Education may revoke the charter of an open enrollment charter school if s/he determines that the charter holder: (1) committed a material violation of the charter, including failure to satisfy accountability provisions prescribed by the charter; (2) failed to satisfy generally accepted accounting standards of fiscal management; (3) failed to protect the health, safety, or welfare of the students enrolled at the school; or (4) failed to comply with TEC Chapter 12, Subchapter D or another applicable law or rule. The Commissioner may also modify, place on probation, or deny renewal of a charter based on these same four reasons.

10. What are the procedures for filing a complaint against a charter school?
The TEA cannot take action on a complaint unless it is in writing. Once a signed, written complaint is submitted by fax, mail, or in person, it will be evaluated by staff at the TEA to determine if the Agency has the authority to take action. Many complaints received address local issues over which TEA does not have authority. Complaints should be addressed to TEA as follows:

Texas Education Agency
1701 N. Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701
Attention: Complaints Management
 
11. Are charters required to say the pledge of allegiance or have a moment of silence?
Yes. Under TEC 25.082, the governing board of each open-enrollment charter school shall require students, once during each school day at each campus to recite the pledge of allegiance to the United States and the pledge of allegiance to the state flag. U.S. and Texas flags must be prominently displayed in each classroom at the time the pledges are recited. On written request from a student’s parent or guardian, the charter schools shall excuse the student from reciting one or both pledges.

Further, the governing board of each open-enrollment charter school shall provide for the observance of one minute of silence at each campus following the recitation of the pledge of allegiance. During the one-minute period, each student may, as the student chooses, reflect, pray, mediate, or engage in any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student.

12. Could you please recommend a good charter school in my area?
No, as a governmental agency we may not recommend a charter school to the public. However, we provide a wide range of information that might help you select the school that is appropriate for your child. The Agency provides information on the performance of students in each public school and district in Texas every year through the Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS). For a list of open-enrollment charter schools, visit the Charter Schools - Reports page. To view a copy of the school's charter, which will give you information about the program, class sizes and much more, please submit a Public Information Request or contact the charter school directly. To further help you in choosing a school appropriate for your family, you may also contact the school directly to inquire about the program and to ask to review the student code of conduct.
 
13. How do I get a copy of my records from a charter school that is closed?
If the charter school you attended is no longer in operation, please visit the Region XIII Charter School Records Request web page to access the form for requesting a copy of your records. You may also submit a public information request to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to request any information that the school submitted on your behalf regarding course completion. To do so, please visit the Agency's PIR web page for information on submitting your request. If you have any questions about whether or not the charter is still in operation or about obtaining a copy of the records, please contact the Division of Charter Schools at TEA at 512.463.9575.


*The information in this document is intended to provide non-regulatory guidance relating to charter schools and should not be construed as TEA rules.

If you have any questions about the information on this page, contact the Division of Charter School Administration at (512) 463-9575.
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