Texas has some of the most generous or liberal laws on charter schools in the country. Quite simply, if you want to open a charter school, you can, and information on how to do so is easily obtained online. The state actually makes it quite simple for applicants. To establish an open-enrollment charter school, all you need is tax exempt status. This could include a government entity (a town or school district, i.e. Westlake, Texas), a non-profit corporation (YMCA), or an institution of higher education (a college or university). This would also include a church that can file a separate exemption with the Internal Revenue Service.
Charter schools are very popular in Texas, even though charter schools are infants compared to Texas public schools. According to the Texas Charter School Association, the largest such association dedicated to charter school advocacy in the nation, there are approximately 120,000 students attending 390 charter schools in Texas. The TCSA also reports that there are around 56,000 students on charter school waiting lists. All of this growth has occurred in a short amount of time; the first charter schools were chartered in 1995.
In April, the Texas Senate voted to expand the cap on the number of charter schools that operate in the state, adding approximately ten additional charters per year. By June, Senate Bill 1 extended the permanent school fund to charter schools, allowing charter schools to maintain a bond rating and guarantee bond payments to charter holders.
However, the track record for charter schools in the state has been mixed, with a small number of schools doing very well academically, but many charter schools have trailed traditional public schools in student test scores. In addition, at least 15 charters have been revoked, rescinded, or denied renewal by the state, mostly for financial reasons.
Charter schools are public schools. They are publicly funded and are held to the same accountability measurements, in the form of state standardized testing, as other Texas public schools. A major difference between the two is that charter schools are not held to the same certification or hiring practices as public schools. In other words, charter school teachers do not have to be certified or college educated to teach in a public charter school, according to state guidelines. Of course, each individual charter school can establish their own requirements, but the state standard is quite low when compared to their public school counterparts.