Learn about Charter Schools

Charter Schools 101

Answers to questions should appear when you scroll over the question. 

What is a charter school?

Public charter schools are tuition-free, open-enrollment public schools that have the flexibility to adapt to the educational needs of individual students, while being held to strict state academic and financial accountability standards. 

Who do charter schools serve?

In Texas, charter schools serve 52% Hispanic and 21% Black students. Charter schools in Texas also serve 65% economically disadvantaged student and 20% limited English proficiency students. In Southern Louisiana, charter schools serve 72% Black, 20% White, and 5% Hispanic students. Louisiana charters schools also serve 78% economically disadvantaged students and 6% English language learners.

Do charter schools serve students with disabilities?

Charter schools are open to all students. In Texas, students with disabilities compose over 8% of the student population in charter schools, comparable to the 10% of students with disabilities within in traditional ISDs. In Louisiana, students with disabilities make up 11% of the student population in charter schools Source 1 / Source 2

How many students are served by charter schools?

Nationally, over 3 million students are served by charter schools. In Texas, there are approximately 337,100 students enrolled in a public charter school. In Southern Louisiana, there are approximately 80,200 students enrolled in public charter schools. Source 3

Charter Schools Facts and Myths


Charter schools are not public schools.


Charter schools are public schools.

Every Texas charter school is required by law to be public. Authorized by Texas law in 1995, charter schools provide tuition-free public school to students and families. They are often called “open-enrollment” charter schools because they are open to all students. At IDEA, students apply through a lottery process and are not required to pay any tuition or take any entrance exam. 


Public charter schools receive more funding than traditional Independent School Districts (ISDs).


On average, charter schools receive $700 less funding per student from taxpayers.

The average public charter receives 94 cents on the dollar compared to the average ISD school. This happens because public charters do not receive any local revenue streams—especially property taxes—and have no taxing authority. Charters do receive slightly more per student from the state— because it’s their only funding. When you add together the state and local funding that ISDs receive, it’s about $700 more per student than the total funding charters receive. For more information, see the Texas Public Charter School Association’s Resource guide.


Public charter schools ‘cherry pick’ students.


Public charter schools are legally prohibited from selecting students based on academic ability, race, religion, or background.

Public charter schools must allow any school-aged child to enroll in their schools if they live within the geographic boundaries approved in its state authorized charter and subject to open seats. Under the Texas Education Code, open enrollment charter schools cannot discriminate in their admission policies based on “sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, disability, academic, artistic, or athletic ability, or the district the child would otherwise attend.” Like magnet schools and ISD schools accepting students out-of-boundary, charter schools may deny a student enrollment based on disciplinary history or juvenile record. 

At IDEA, our students apply to our lottery system and are then selected randomly from that lottery. IDEA utilizes STREAM, an automated enrollment software system that is fair, transparent, and complies with data privacy regulations. To learn more about our lottery system, visit our lottery FAQ page.


Public charter schools do not enroll students with disabilities and do not offer services for these students.


Public charter schools offer services for students with disabilities. Eight percent of students in public charter schools are students with disabilities.

Public charter schools are prohibited from excluding students on the basis of disability and all state and federal laws regarding special education programs apply to open-enrollment charter schools, just as they do at traditional ISDs. Public charter schools enroll a similar number of students receiving Special Education services as the state average (8% vs 10%) that percentage has been steadily increasing. 

At IDEA, our Special Programs team provides resources, training, and support for all campuses that service students who are English Language Learners (ELL) and/or receive 504, Homebound, Dyslexia, or Special Education services. Additionally, we provide resources, training, and support for the Response to Intervention (RtI) process and for campuses that service students who receive a specialized remedial curriculum for additional academic support. See our special programs page for more information. 

Charter School Resources

Looking to learn more about public charter schools in Texas, Louisiana, and around the country? Visit these sites from our partners.