Charter Schools Movement State Timeline
Texas charter schools . . .
While education inadequacies were first noticed in the 1960s in Texas, one of the first reports was done in 1984. The, “... Select Committee on Education produced a report of 12 recommendations for a major overhaul,” focusing on the organization and management of schools, allocation of state funds, legislative actions, teacher education, and school operations.
-”In 1991, the Texas Education Agency introduced what it called the “Partnership School Initiative,” a challenge for individual schools to achieve educational excellence and equity for all students by freeing the schools from certain regulations.”
Texas passed their Charter School law, Senate Bill 1. “The State Legislature created public charter schools in 1995 with bipartisan support. Charter schools are funded by the state on a per-student basis—just like traditional school districts—but receive no local tax dollars. On average, they receive 6% less funding from taxpayers than Independent School Districts (ISDs).” The enabling legislation initially capped the movement at 20 charters, all of which it would authorize that year.
The 1996-1997 school year saw the first 16 of 20 authorized charters opened, serving 2,400 students.
After limiting the number of charters to 20 only two years before, the cap was raised to an additional 100 state open enrollment charters, while the cap was completely lifted for “...public charter schools committed to a student population composed primarily (75 percent) of students at risk of dropping out of school.”
As charter popularity grew in its first few years, so did concern from legislators, policy makers, and the public. As more and more applications were approved, many wondered about how accountability and oversight might play out. As a cautionary measure, the legislature passed HB 6 which removed the previously unlimited charter rule and instead capped the allowed number of charters at 215.
2013 saw the Texas Legislature pass Senate Bill 2, a comprehensive update on the charter issue. This piece of legislation instituted a number of changes including forcing traditional districts who planned on selling unused properties to first offer them to charters who resided in their districts for the chance to purchase, lease, or use the spaces. However, though offered, the traditional district does not have to accept an offer.
And in exchange for a moderate increase to the existing charter cap, the Texas Legislature gave the state commissioner of education the broad statutory authority necessary to close poor performing public charter Schools." This meant that charters no longer faced closure through the three-strike policy but instead, “automatic closure of any public charter school failing to meet state academic or financial accountability standards for three consecutive years.”
SB 1882 is passed which, “... provides incentives for districts to contract to partner with an open-enrollment charter school, institutions of higher education, non-profits, or government entities.” This includes potential funding increases for partnered organizations and a two-year exemption from some accountability interventions.
Before the pandemic, Texas was home to over 700 charter schools serving nearly 300,000 students with close to 141,000 children on waiting lists. Even today, charter school students don’t receive the same amount of funding as their traditional district counterparts. Since charters cannot receive local tax dollars, for the 2018-2019 school year, charters averaged $9,930 per student compared to the district’s average of $11,665 per student.
Since charters first opened in 1996, a total of 54 have been closed for either revoking a charter or failed to renew. Thus, proving the charter promise that if a school isn’t serving the child, it will lose its ability to operate.
“78% of public charter school graduates in 2022 were college, career, or military ready, compared to a statewide average of 66%.”
The voucher initiative has made a resurgence in Texas as Senate Bill 8 pushes for the creation of an, “education savings account” that allows families to use state money to attend private institutions. The bill is receiving bipartisan backlash.
Advocates showed their support for charter schools during an April 29, 2015, rally at the Texas Capitol.
The Texas Charter School Association and Charter School students march on the State Capitol grounds before the rally on the south steps of the Capitol on Wednesday, April 26, 2017.
Texas Academic Performance Reports for 2021-22, published by the Texas Education Agency