Guide to School Choice in Texas

By: National School Choice Week Team

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

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. 

In Texas, families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.

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Texas Traditional Public Schools

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. 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

Texas Charter Schools

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. 

Texas Magnet Schools

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. Texas has several magnet schools throughout the state. If your child learns well through diving deeply into a particular subject, a magnet school could be a good fit. 

Texas Private Schools

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 no state-run scholarship options in Texas, but private scholarships may be available to help families access private school. 

Texas Online Learning

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. Students may also find part-time options through the Texas Virtual School Network.

Texas Homeschooling

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. Find resources about homeschooling specific to Texas here and here

Education Resources for Texas Parents 

For additional information about school choices in Texas, visit these resources: 

School Choice Celebrations in Texas

National School Choice Week 2020 will take place January 26 – February 1, 2020. We encourage all schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals to join the celebration. Click here for ideas, inspiration, and more information! 

Texas will celebrate National School Choice Week 2020 with 4,891 events and activities across the state. Learn more about some of these celebrations at schoolchoiceweek.com/states/texas/.

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