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Charter Schools - Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains frequently asked questions about charter schools.

 The information found within these FAQs is intended to provide nonregulatory guidance relating to charter schools and should not be construed as TEA rules.  

  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 charter schools?  
  6. Who may be granted an open-enrollment charter?
  7. Is there a limit on how many open-enrollment charters may be granted?  
  8. How long is the term of an open-enrollment charter? 
  9. Can a charter be revoked before its term expires?
  10. Could you please recommend a good charter school in my area?
  11. How do students enroll in an open-enrollment charter school?
  12. Where can I find additional information about charters in my area?
  13. If my child is transferring from one school to another what steps do I take to ensure a smooth transition?
  14. Which grade levels may an open-enrollment charter school offer?
  15. Are there requirements concerning curriculum imposed on open-enrollment charter schools?
  16. Are open-enrollment charter schools subject to 19 TAC section 74.26(c), which states that credit for courses for high school graduation may be earned only if a student received a grade that is the equivalent of 70 or above on a scale of 100?
  17. Are open-enrollment charter schools required to administer state achievement tests?
  18. Are open-enrollment charter schools required to provide a certain number of days of instruction during a school year?  
  19. Are students of open-enrollment charter schools required to attend school for a certain number of hours each day?
  20. What are the requirements for student/teacher ratio and class size for charter schools?
  21. Must an open-enrollment charter school be open to all students?  
  22. Are open-enrollment charter schools required to admit children with special needs?  
  23. May a charter school deny enrollment to my student?
  24. What are attendance requirements for students?
  25. Are charter schools permitted to require students to buy uniforms to be worn to school and to school activities?
  26. Are charter schools permitted to charge tuition and fees?
  27. Are charter schools required to provide meals to students?  
  28. Are charter schools required to provide transportation to students? 
  29. Is there a limit on the number of students that may be assigned to a classroom at an open-enrollment charter school?
  30. Are the teachers at open-enrollment charter schools required to be certified by the State of Texas?
  31. Is a charter school required to employ a full-time school nurse?
  32. Are charter school nurses required to be a licensed nurse?
  33. What are the minimum qualifications to become a principal or a superintendent of a charter school?
  34. Must charter schools provide a minimum teacher planning period like traditional public schools do under TEC §21.404?  
  35. Must teachers and other professional employees at open-enrollment charter schools receive written employment contracts?
  36. May a charter school employ a person with a criminal history?
  37. Are open-enrollment charter schools required to pay teachers and other professional employees according to the minimum salary schedules set out in the Texas Education Code?  
  38. Are charter schools required to keep teacher service records on file?
  39. What course of action can an employee pursue if he or she is not being paid by a charter school?
  40. What are the procedures for filing a complaint against a charter school?  
  41. What kind of complaints can TEA investigate?
  42. How do I file a formal complaint with TEA?
  43. What do I do if my old school doesn't forward my records to my new school?  
  44. How do I get a copy of my records from a charter school that is closed?  
  45. Does my child lose their spot at the charter school if the charter re-opens during the school year?  
  46. How does the public know if a charter affected by an interruption in operations re-opens?
  47. Does the Fair Labor Standards Act apply to charter schools?  
  48. Is there an FAQ that offers answers to general education questions? 

 

  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 commissioner of education, State Board of Education (SBOE), or the board of trustees of an independent school district.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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, and so on.
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  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 or the commissioner of education. Several charters have been awarded to senior universities. The remainder of these FAQs will focus on open-enrollment charters as the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is more directly involved with these charters.
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  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.)
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  7. Is there a limit on how many open-enrollment charters may be granted?
    Yes. Legislation passed during the 83rd Legislature created a graduated cap.  Beginning in September 2014, the cap changes from the longstanding 215 to 225. After that, the cap increases every year by 15 until the final number of 305 is reached in September 2019.
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  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.
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  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.
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  10. 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, Resources are available to help parents make informed decisions about their school choice options. The following links may be useful in your search for the best educational opportunity for your children:

    To view a copy of the school's charter, please visit the Submitted Subchapter D & E Applications page. 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.
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  11. How do students enroll in an open-enrollment charter school?
    Each open-enrollment charter school must have an application period. Each applicant must complete and submit an application within the application period that the school establishes. On receipt of more acceptable applications for admissions than available positions, an open-enrollment charter school must, in most cases, fill the available positions by lottery. An open-enrollment charter school that receives fewer applicants than available spaces does not need to conduct a lottery.
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  12. Where can I find additional information about charters in my area?
    The charter school website has a resource section for parents and students. An interactive map is available for parents to type in their address in the text box in order to find charter schools in their area or to determine the traditional district of residence.
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  13. If my child is transferring from one school to another what steps do I take to ensure a smooth transition?
    Return any instructional materials that belong to the school. Ensure you have the belongings of your students. You may request a copy of your student records and immunization records from the school; however, the new charter or school district will send a request to the sending school for the official records. More information on enrolling your child in a traditional district may be found on the TEA website.
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  14. Which grade levels may an open-enrollment charter school offer?
    While an open-enrollment charter school may offer instruction in one or more grades between pre-kindergarten and grade 12, certain restrictions apply. Charter schools may only offer instruction in the grades that are approved in its charter. Additionally, by the third year of operation a charter must serve at least one grade in which state assessment tests are administered (i.e., grades 3-11) and in which a minimum of 30 students are enrolled in tested grades.
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  15. Are there requirements concerning curriculum imposed on open-enrollment charter schools?
    Yes. Open-enrollment charter schools are subject to some, but not all, of the curriculum requirements that apply to independent school districts. For example, their educational programs must include the curriculum required by Texas Education Code (TEC) section 28.002, implement reading diagnosis and accelerated reading instruction programs as required by TEC section 28.006, adhere to the graduation standards of TEC section 28.025, and adhere to requirements regarding special education and bilingual education and pre-kindergarten. See TEC 12.104 and 12.111.
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  16. Are open-enrollment charter schools subject to 19 TAC section 74.26(c), which states that credit for courses for high school graduation may be earned only if a student received a grade that is the equivalent of 70 or above on a scale of 100?
    Yes. This rule is one of the graduation standards implemented under TEC section 28.025, to which open-enrollment charter schools are subject. Therefore, open-enrollment charter schools may only award credit for courses for high school graduation if a student received a grade that is the equivalent of a 70 or above on a 100-point scale.
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  17. Are open-enrollment charter schools required to administer state achievement tests?
    Yes. Open-enrollment charter schools are subject to the statewide assessment program to the same extent as other public schools.
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  18. Are open-enrollment charter schools required to provide a certain number of days of instruction during a school year?
    No. While other public schools must provide at least 180 days of instruction per school year, open-enrollment charter schools have the discretion to determine the length of their school year. However, because open-enrollment charter schools receive funding based on average daily attendance (up to 180 days), many of them provide at least 180 days of instruction per school year in order to receive full funding.
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  19. Are students of open-enrollment charter schools required to attend school for a certain number of hours each day?
    No. Open-enrollment charter schools are not subject to the seven-hour school day requirement that applies to other public schools. However, a student must receive a minimum of four hours of instruction per day, exclusive of intermissions and recesses, in order for the student to be considered in attendance for a full day for funding purposes.
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  20. What are the requirements for student/teacher ratio and class size for charter schools?
    Charter schools are not subject to sections TEC sections 25.111 and 25.112 that state such guidelines for districts. Instead, charter schools are held to any student-teacher ratios or class size limitations contained in the charter.
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  21. Must an open-enrollment charter school be open to all students?
    Yes. In general, an open-enrollment charter school may establish no admissions requirements except that students meet the age, grade level, and residency requirements specified in its charter. An open-enrollment charter school may not deny admission to a student based on sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, disability, academic ability, artistic ability (except as permitted by Texas Education Code (TEC) § 12.1171), athletic ability, or based on the school district that the child would otherwise attend. If its charter so provides, an open-enrollment charter school may deny admission to a student who has a documented history of a criminal offense, a juvenile court adjudication, or discipline problems under Chapter 37, Subchapter A of the Texas Education Code (TEC).
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  22. Are open-enrollment charter schools required to admit children with special needs?
    Yes. Open-enrollment charter schools must prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, disability, academic ability, artistic ability (except as permitted by TEC § 12.1171), athletic ability, or the district the student would otherwise attend. See TEC § 12.111(a)(6).
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  23. May a charter school deny enrollment to my student?
    Charter schools are required to offer services to students in their approved geographic boundaries if there is space available for the student, and the student is age/grade appropriate to attend the charter school. Parents will need to provide a birth certificate and proof of residency to enroll their child. Shot records will need to be provided within the first 30 days of enrollment. A charter may not prohibit a student from attending school pending receipt of transcripts or records from the school district or open-enrollment charter the student previously attended.
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  24. What are attendance requirements for students?
    The Texas Education Code (TEC) outlines the compulsory attendance laws for our state. Any child who is enrolled in a traditional district or charter school must comply with §25.085 which requires children who are least six years of age to attend a public school until the student’s 18th birthday.
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  25. Are charter schools permitted to require students to buy uniforms to be worn to school and to school activities?
    Yes.
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  26.  Are charter schools permitted to charge tuition and fees?
    An open enrollment charter school may not charge tuition (except for certain pre-kindergarten classes). However, a student may be required to pay the same fees at a charter school that are required at a traditional public school. Allowable fees are listed in TEC § 11.158(a).
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  27. Are charter schools required to provide meals to students?
    If 10% of the students qualify for free or reduced breakfast, the school is required by TEC § 33.901 to provide a breakfast program for those students.
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  28. Are charter schools required to provide transportation to students?
    A charter school does not have to provide transportation for students unless it is a requirement in the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP). Pursuant to federal law, the school must provide transportation to students eligible for special education and related services as required by their IEPs.
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  29. Is there a limit on the number of students that may be assigned to a classroom at an open-enrollment charter school?
    Yes. Although state statute does not establish a student-teacher ratio or class size for open-enrollment charter schools, these schools must adhere to the limitations contained in their charters.
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  30. Are the teachers at open-enrollment charter schools required to be certified by the State of Texas?
    It depends. State law does not require a teacher employed by an open-enrollment charter school to be certified unless the teacher is assigned to teach special education or bilingual education/English as a second language (ESL), in which case the appropriate state certification is required. The minimum qualification under state law for a teacher at an open-enrollment charter school, other than a special education or bilingual education/ESL teacher, is a high school diploma. However, the governing body of a charter holder may set the qualifications for teachers at a standard above what state law requires. For instance, many charter holders require that teachers have college degrees. Furthermore, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act requires open-enrollment charter schools that receive certain federal funds to employ core subject area teachers who are “highly qualified.” The Act requires teachers to have a bachelor’s degree and to demonstrate competency in each core subject area that they teach. Please visit the NCLB requirements for more information.
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  31. Is a charter school required to employ a full-time school nurse?
    No. Charter schools are not required to employ a school nurse. If one is employed, however, that person is not required to be a full-time employee or to be full-time at any one location.
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  32. Are charter school nurses required to be a licensed nurse?
    Because an LVN is not allowed to work without supervision, if a charter school wanted to hire one person as a nurse, that the person would have to be an RN.
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  33. What are the minimum qualifications to become a principal or a superintendent of a charter school?
    There are no minimum qualifications to become a principal or a superintendent at an open-enrollment charter school mentioned in rule or law. Each charter holder is responsible for describing personnel qualifications in the charter.
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  34. Must charter schools provide a minimum teacher planning period like traditional public schools do under TEC §21.404?
    Because Texas Education Code (TEC) §21.404 does not apply to charters, this is a local issue. A charter school does not have to provide a minimum teacher planning period unless it is stipulated in the charter.
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  35. Must teachers and other professional employees at open-enrollment charter schools receive written employment contracts?
    No. State law does not require that open-enrollment charter schools enter into written employment contracts with professional employees. The decision regarding whether or not to have written employment contracts rests with the governing body of the charter holder.
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  36. May a charter school employ a person with a criminal history?
    TEC §12.120 states, “A person may not serve as a member of the governing body of a charter holder, as a member of the governing body of an open enrollment charter school, or as an officer or employee of an open enrollment charter school if the person: (1) has been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude; (2) has been convicted of an offense listed in Section 37.007(a); (3) has been convicted of an offense listed in Article 62.001(5), Code of Criminal Procedure; or (4) has a substantial interest in a management company.” Charter schools must check the criminal history (through the Texas Department of Public Safety) of each person who intends to serve as an employee in any capacity, a member of the governing body of the charter holder, a member of the governing body of the charter school, and any person who files, in writing, an intention to serve as a volunteer. See 19 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §100.1151.
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  37. Are open-enrollment charter schools required to pay teachers and other professional employees according to the minimum salary schedules set out in the Texas Education Code?
    No. Open-enrollment charter schools are not required to comply with the salary provisions in TEC. They may set their own salaries for professional employees.
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  38. Are charter schools required to keep teacher service records on file?
    Yes. The service record shall be kept on file at the charter school or the charter district office. When employment with the charter school is terminated, the original service record, signed by the employee, shall be given to the employee upon request or sent to the next employing school district or charter school. The charter school must maintain a legible copy for audit purposes. See 19 TAC §153.1021(d)(5).
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  39. What course of action can an employee pursue if he or she is not being paid by a charter school?
    To file a wage claim, please contact the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) at (800) 832-9243.
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  40. What are the procedures for filing a complaint against a charter school?
    Charters are required to have a grievance process for parents who believe their rights have been denied to have their complaint addressed by the charter’s governing board.  The charter’s board has primary responsibility for ensuring that the school laws are followed.  Local complaint policies require individuals to present complaints in writing.  A person may request to appeal the superintendent's decision to the charter board.  It is very important to follow the steps and the timelines required by the charter’s policies and procedures.  School administrators and the superintendent's office can provide copies of the complaint policies and forms.
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  41. What kind of complaints can TEA investigate?
    The types of complaints against a charter school that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has been given jurisdiction include issues involving student records, teacher service records, admissions and enrollment procedures, tuition, teacher qualifications (non-NCLB matters), criminal history concerns, governance, conflicts of interest, nepotism, financial mismanagement, state testing violations (TAKS, STAAR), and/or special education programs. 
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  42. How do I file a formal complaint with TEA?
    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
    Additional information about the TEA complaint process may be found at the following links: TOP
  43. What do I do if my old school doesn't forward my records to my new school?
    A public school (charter schools, as well traditional public schools) cannot deny enrollment based on the lack of records. See 19 TAC § 74.26(a)(1). When a new student tries to register at the school, the new school will contact the old school to request a transfer of records. In the meantime, the new school must register and place the student as appropriately as possible. Any copies that you may have of old report cards or similar records will help the new school with appropriate placements. Additionally, a public school (charter schools, as well traditional public schools) cannot withhold student records from an adult student or the guardian of a minor student. If you have a legal claim to the records (you are the guardian of a minor student or you are an adult student) you may submit a request in writing to the school. The school is legally required to respond "promptly" to a written request. For more information or to file a complaint, please visit the web site for or contact the Office of the Attorney General.
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  44. 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 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.
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  45. Does my child lose their spot at the charter school if the charter re-opens during the school year?
    No, for charters affected by an interruption in operations, students enrolled prior to the interruption will have their position held for a reasonable period of time.
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  46. How does the public know if a charter affected by an interruption in operations re-opens?
    Charters should notify parents of the resuming operations. After a reasonable period of time charters may fill any vacancies pursuant to their existing admission policy.
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  47. Does the Fair Labor Standards Act apply to charter schools?
    Yes. For more information regarding the Act, please visit the U.S. Department of Labor.
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  48. Is there an FAQ that offers answers to general education questions?
    The General Inquiry webpage covers a wide range of topics concerning traditional education.
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If you have any questions about the information on this page, contact the Division of Charter School Administration at (512) 463-9575.


 

Division of Charter School Administration
1701 North Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701
Phone: (512) 463-9575

 

Page last modified on 4/14/2014 02:59:32 PM.