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Last Upated: February 23, 2021
Wondering about school choice in Texas? There are a variety of options available for Texas families. Knowing these options can help you find learning environment where your child is not just “getting by” at school, but actually thriving and inspired to learn.
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Most Texas families choose traditional public schools, which are operated by school districts, free to attend, open to all students, and funded by taxpayers. Did you know that, on average, Texas spends $8,619 per public school student each year?
In Texas, the state allows each district decides to set its own open enrollment policies. Open enrollment refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. Parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school than the one they are assigned should contact their local school district to see if this is an option. If students are eligible for the Texas Public Education Grant, their transportation costs will be covered by the previously assigned schools. Open enrollment is a valuable choice, widening parents’ options and ensuring that their zip code isn’t the sole determiner of their education.
Texas’ public schools come in all different flavors. Burbank Middle School, for instance, has a strong dual-language program. Meanwhile, De Zavala Elementary is serving low-income students and helping them beat the odds.
Find out more about public schools in your state here: Texas’ Department of Education.
Texas has had charter schools as an option for more than 20 years. Like traditional public schools, charter schools are public, free, and typically have no requirements for entry. What distinguishes charter schools is that they have extra freedom to innovate with learning methods and they are accountable to authorizing bodies for results.
In 2018 there were more than 750 charter schools in Texas. Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. That could be providing a STEM program or offering a rigorous, literacy-based curriculum. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a lottery system (like drawing random names out of a hat!) is usually used to determine admittance.
You can read more about these charter offerings at the Texas Public Charter Schools Association.
Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as an International Baccalaureate program or the performing arts. Magnet schools teach all subjects through the lenses of that specific track. If your child learns well through diving deeply into a particular subject, a magnet school could be a good fit.
Texas has many magnet schools. For example, Aldine ISD, Dallas ISD, DeSoto ISD, Galveston ISD, Houston ISD, and Richardson ISD all offer magnet choices. You may also be interested in checking out U.S. News & World’s report ranking of Texas’ magnet high schools. Please note that the list may not be exhaustive and you should check with your local district about options near you.
Private schools, nonpublic schools that charge tuition, offer a unique learning environment that may include a smaller class size, pass on a specific religious tradition, or provide a different curriculum than is available in your district school.
There are more than 1,100 private schools across the state of Texas. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $9,588 per year, but keep in mind that schools often are more affordable at the elementary level than high school.
There are no state-run scholarship options in Texas, but private scholarships may be available to help families access private school. Also, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.
Don’t overlook online learning! It offers a uniquely flexible learning environment that meets a variety of family needs. Whether your child wants to accelerate his or her learning or needs a quieter environment in which to focus, you may be interested in giving virtual school a try. Texas offers several free, full-time online learning options for students, including tuition-free online schooling through the Texas Virtual School Network’s Online Schools. For the 2019-2020 school year, there were seven full-time online schools to choose from in the Texas Virtual School Network. Also, students may find part-time options through the Texas Virtual School Network.
The Texas Virtual School Network offers families seven different online choices, some of which have rolling deadlines.
While some choices through the Texas Virtual School Network have filled all seats, there is availability in every grade if you are flexible as to which platform you choose.
Many choices through the Texas Virtual School Network allow families to transfer in mid-school year as long as spots are available. But, it is best to switch at the semester break in order to ensure credit is received.
Some of the Texas Virtual School Network choices provide a laptop, while others do not. For the schools that do not, you may be able to apply for an exception based on financial hardship.
Texas families can also choose to homeschool, which allows for high levels of customized learning and flexibility. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home and all 50 states allow it.
In Texas, it is not required that you provide notice of your intent to homeschool; however, it is recommended that you formally withdraw from your public school so your student is not marked truant.
In the case that you decide to return to public school in the middle of the school year, contact your local school to find out what their process is. They may require testing.
You may also want to check out the Texas Education Agency’s Homeschooling page, the Texas Homeschool Coalition, the Home School Legal Defense Association – Texas, and the Arlington Association of Home Educators.
Micro-schools, pods, pandemic pods, and learning pods all refer to the same concept: students gathering together in a small group – with adult supervision – to learn, explore, and socialize. Pods themselves can take a variety of legal forms, but in general they can be separated into two categories: self-directed pod (homeschool, homeschool collaborative, or micro-school) and learning support pod. It’s important to understand what kind of pod you are signing up for and the requirements that go along with it. Learn more about learning pods.
If your learning pod or micro-school is choosing its own curriculum and each family is directing their own children’s schooling, it likely qualifies as a homeschool in Texas. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA here.
If your learning pod contains more than two families and will have teachers leading unique classes just for your school, it may qualify as a private school. You can read more about what Texas classifies as a private school, how they’re regulated, and how to start one.
If your child is going to be enrolled in remote learning through your local public school and supervised by an adult in your learning pod, you do not need to register as a homeschool or private school. Keep in mind that you have multiple online learning options, including several permanent, full-time online schools that are available to students statewide.
The city of Austin has stated that anyone operating a learning pod must have a health and safety plan, and lays out guidelines for when pods must be registered as child care. Learn more about Austin based pods.
For additional information about school choices in Texas, visit these resources:
National School Choice Week 2022 will take place January 23 – 29, 2022. We encourage all schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals to join the celebration. Check out ideas, inspiration, and more information!
Texas celebrated National School Choice Week 2021 with 2,827 virtual events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Texas.
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