School Choice in Texas Offers Parents Options
Is your child soaring or struggling in his current school? If you are seeing more struggle than soar, know that you have a choice in Texas! No longer are students required to attend the public school closest to their home. Families in Texas can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, homeschooling, and more. But it’s never as simple as that! Here is your guide to understanding these options.
Traditional Public Schools – these are available throughout the state, and generally, students will go to the school closest to their home address. However, there are some districts that allow students to attend any school within the district, regardless of their home address. Some districts also allow students to attend their schools even if the student doesn’t live within the district boundaries. These are called open enrollment districts, and the guidelines vary by district. Parents are also allowed to request a transfer for their child to another school if their current school is classified as a poorly performing school by the Public Education Grant.
Public Charter Schools – these are public schools that are allowed freedom to innovate with learning methods while still being held accountable for student achievement by the state. Texas has had charter schools as an option for more than 20 years. While charter schools are free, they are allowed to limit enrollment numbers, so students must apply, and spots are filled using a blind lottery. Most Texas charter schools are found in the larger urban areas of the state.
Public Magnet Schools – these focus on specific themes, such as math, science, technology, or the performing arts. Many of these are schools within larger public ISDs and while free to attend, many use some sort of selective criteria for admission, such as grades, audition, interview, etc.).
Private Schools – these schools are non-public schools that charge tuition. They can be faith-based or independent and receive no funding from the state (and therefore are not subject to state accountability standards). Most private schools require tuition which can vary greatly from school to school, but the state average for a private school is nearly $10,000 per year for elementary school. Many schools have scholarship options available to help families access private schools, and tuition can also be paid using monies saved in a 529 education savings account.
Online Academies and Homeschooling – Texas parents can choose to educate their children at home using online learning or parent-led home schooling. Texas offers several free, full-time online learning options, and parents can learn what is available through the Texas Virtual School Network website. Homeschooling can take on a variety of forms such as co-ops, learning pods, and more. Parents who choose to home school are required to follow an authentic curriculum that covers all basic subjects. While the state does not award a diploma to students that are home schooled, Texas institutions of higher learning are required to treat a successful completion of a home school education as equivalent to graduation from a public high school.
Texas has proudly stood behind school choice for a long time, and many believe it is improving the overall landscape of education. “We believe that families deserve the freedom to choose the school and environment that best suits their individual child, regardless of home address,” said Yasmin Bhatia, CEO of Uplift Education, the largest public charter school network in Dallas/Fort Worth. “Our goal is to provide a choice for students who may not have many options in their neighborhood and provide a top-level education to all who attend.”
Unfortunately, there is no quick and simple tool for determining the best choice for your child. If you are interested in exploring choices for your child’s education, you can start with this Find Schools Near Me tool to find the options closest to you. From there you can visit websites for schools and districts to find out their policies, enrollment procedures, and learning styles. Many schools will offer tours or open house dates, and principals and school leaders are often happy to share information about their school.
It doesn’t cost anything to look, and the decisions you make now for your child’s education could have a long-lasting effect.