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Texas Matters: Charting Charter Schools And ISDs


Texas passed its initial charter school legislation in 1995 and the state's first charter schools opened in the fall of 1996.

It was Senate Bill 1 in the 74th Legislature that overhauled the Texas Education Code and gave the State Board of Education the authority to grant open-enrollment charter schools. The argument was that charter schools would be able to experiment and innovate outside of the rules and regulations of the independent school districts to find ways to improve education outcomes. The record in that area has been mixed.

Today the Texas Education Agency reports there are more than 700 charter schools across the state. 

It’s clear that after operating in Texas for over 20 years charter schools are a permanent fixture of the public school system. But what’s not clear is how their presence is impacting the traditional public schools by attracting enthusiastic students, supportive parents and needed dollars.

Texas Public Radio took a deep dive into the data to find out.

The San Antonio-New Braunfels Metropolitan Area contains two of the fastest growing cities in the country. But despite the arrival of new families every day the region’s traditional public schools lost nearly 4 thousand students between 2017 and 2019.

That’s according to a TPR analysis of enrollment changes over the past 10 years.

Texas Public Radio education reporter Camille Phillips reports in a series of special reports the exponential growth in publicly-funded, privately-run charter schools is at the cost of traditional public school ISDs.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi