Sometimes we don’t stop to consider that we have a choice when it comes to our child’s school. But most of us do have options, even within our public schools. There are 3 types of schools to consider: public schools (including charter schools), private schools, and homeschooling. And there are different choices within each one. On this page, you can learn more about each so you can decide where your child will best learn and thrive.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What learning environments, diverse programs, resources, and after school activities does this school offer that meet my child’s needs?
- Does the school practice inclusion (time spent with children in general education during the day)?
- Does it support relationship building with students and parents?
- What type of learning environment and classroom is best for my child’s needs?
- Does the school’s staff have experience in teaching students with disabilities, and do teachers receive training to help them meet the needs of diverse learners?
Tips for Narrowing the Choices
- Connect with other parents, friends, and neighbors about their experiences with the school to see if they can give you helpful advice. See if there is a local parent group listserv (email list) to join.
- Set up a time to visit the school, take a tour, and observe classrooms. Connect with the staff and share your concerns about your child’s unique needs. Ask them for ideas on how they can support your child, and ask to observe these tools and strategies in the classroom to see how they look in action. If possible, bring your child to observe with you on a second visit.
- Read about the school online. You can look at a school or school district’s website. Find your school’s state accountability rating on the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) website, or look up other school ratings on GreatSchools.org.
Public schools are your local, neighborhood schools.
Some Benefits of Public Schools
- They must give your child a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). This means they must help you find out if your child has a disability that allows them to get special education services – and see if your child needs these services. If so, they must also work with you to develop and carry out an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your child.
- Your public school can’t discriminate against your child because of their disability.
- The classroom teacher must hold a degree from a university or college, must have completed an educator preparation program, and must have passed the appropriate teacher certification exam.
- They must follow federal and state education laws that can protect your child's right to an education, like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504.
Some Challenges of Public Schools
- Some parents feel that public schools are rigid and inflexible, and their children don’t learn best in that kind of setting. However, Section 504 might be able to give your child the flexibility they need to learn successfully in public school.
- Some parents feel that the public schools often have more students for each teacher than other types of schools.
- Some parents feel that their public schools offer services too slowly or don’t give the services they think their child needs. Keep in mind that you are an important and essential part of the Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) committee, which decides what services your child needs and gets. Learn more about what to do when you’re having trouble getting the right services for your child.
A charter school is a type of public school. Charter schools are often run by nonprofit organizations, small companies, parent groups, or teacher groups.
Here are things to understand about charter schools:
- Fewer state laws apply to charter schools than to other public schools, so they have room for more innovation and flexibility.
- Just like other public schools, charter schools must still follow the same state and federal laws about special education.
- They might have different qualifications for their teachers.
- Some have smaller numbers of students overall and in each class.
- The types of classes and services and number of students per teacher will be different in every charter school. For example, charter schools do not have to offer transportation. But if a student’s IEP includes a certain type of transportation to and from school, the charter school would have to provide it.
Visit the TEA charter schools web page to learn more about charter schools in Texas.
Private schools are run by companies as well as by nonprofit, faith-based, and other community organizations. Private schools usually charge tuition, but some do offer scholarships. These schools often have a focus such as: religious traditions and education; academic achievement and college preparation; the performing arts; or a specific teaching practice like Montessori.
Some Benefits of Private Schools
- They might have fewer students per teacher.
- They might have a specific focus that would benefit your child. For example, some private schools focus on children with a specific disability.
- Students might not be required to take standardized tests like STAAR, though some private schools do offer these tests to help out students who will eventually move to public schools.
Some Challenges of Private Schools
- They are not required by law to implement a student’s IEP and do not have to provide special education services. Many do not offer accommodations or modifications. (But in some cases a child at a private school can get some special education services from their public school district. Talk to your school district’s special education department if you think this might apply to your child.)
- Many parents find them too expensive. If you are interested in a private school, ask about their financial aid program.
We want our children to learn in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) possible, but what if our children need to learn in a more specialized environment? There are schools in Texas that work only with students with certain disabilities. K12 Academics has lists of specialized schools in Texas. Many are private schools, but some are public schools too!
Homeschooling is where parents educate their children at home. Parents in Texas do not need any special permission to homeschool their children. You have a legal right to decide what and how to teach your child, just as long as you meet basic educational goals in these subjects: reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and a study of good citizenship. Homeschool.com lists a few online curriculum programs to help you get started.
Homeschooling in Texas: What You Need to Know
When you decide to homeschool your child, you should send a letter of withdrawal to their school if they are already enrolled. Ask the school for a receipt once they receive your letter. If the school contacts you about your homeschooling program, you can send a “letter of assurance” to let them know that you are following the laws.
You can also read the Homeschool Life FAQ to learn about starting to homeschool in Texas.
Some Benefits of Homeschooling
Some parents feel that:
- Their children benefit more from a 1-on-1, non-competitive environment with a parent-driven curriculum.
- It is the best choice for their children due to their family lifestyle, beliefs, and traditions.
- It gives their children the support they need.
- Choosing homeschooling might help with problems like bullying at school.
Some Challenges of Homeschooling
- For some parents, work or other obligations make it hard – or even impossible – to homeschool.
- For some families, drawing the line between schoolwork and family time at home is hard to do.