Posts

One of the questions we hear most from prospective parents interested in applying to Harmony Public Schools is “I’ve been looking at schools near me, but I don’t understand – what is the difference between a charter school and an ISD public school?” 

Public charter schools have grown exponentially in the past 25 years – both in Texas, and around the country – but we understand why many parents who grew up in a traditional independent school district setting themselves may still have questions.

That’s OK. We’ve got the answers to all of your biggest questions about charter schools.

So, what exactly is a charter school?

A charter school is a public school, and in many ways very similar to a traditional ISD school as you might think of one.

  • Charter schools do not charge tuition or application fees.
  • Charter schools accept every student who applies, as long as the school or grade level has not reached its enrollment capacity.
  • Charter school students take the same core classes and state tests (ex. STAAR) as ISD students. 
  • Charter schools are held to strict standards of financial and overall accountability by the Texas Education Agency.
  • Charter schools offer a full range of special services, including special education, English as a Second Language (ESL), Dyslexia, and 504. 

However, what makes charter schools different is what we believe makes them special. In a word, that difference is “choice.”

Way back in 1995, the Texas State Legislature decided that even though there were a lot of great schools in Texas, a one-size-fits-all approach to education might not work for all families. Each child is unique: some with special gifts, others with special challenges, and all with special dreams for their futures.

To help better serve every Texas student, the Texas public charter school system was created to allow independent, education-based nonprofit organizations called Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) to open and operate free public schools for Texas students with the promise that they would provide a new school choice in education for local Texas families.

For some charter schools, that new choice might be a curriculum that focuses on dual-language learning. For others, it might be helping students who have dropped out of the traditional school setting reclaim their path to graduation.

At Harmony Public Schools, we specialize in hands-on, project-based learning with a heavy emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), as well as advanced college preparedness and character education.


DID YOU KNOW?

Of the roughly 100 schools in Texas certified as official Texas STEM Academies be the Texas Education Agency, 23 are Harmony Public Schools high schools – more than any other school system in Texas!

Thirteen Harmony high schools have also been named among the Best STEM High Schools in the U.S. by Newsweek.


 

Who can attend a charter school?

As long as a student lives within its geographic boundaries of the school, any child can attend a Texas public charter school. However, unlike traditional ISD schools where students usually must attend whichever nearby campus they are “zoned” to, public charter school geographic boundaries are generally very large – often covering multiple communities or counties. These large geographic boundaries are another way Texas public charter schools offer Texas families a choice in their student’s education, and are unique from traditional ISDs. For example, rather than sending their child to an ISD campus near their home address, a parent may prefer for their child to attend a school near a grandparent’s home, or the parent’s place of work. Or they may prefer to send their child to a campus that specializes in a specific curriculum, like STEM, or with a higher TEA accountability rating than their neighborhood ISD school. All of these are options with Texas public charter schools.

Do public charter schools charge tuition?

Texas public charter schools are free to attend. Applying to a Texas public charter school is also free.

How do charter schools choose who gets to attend?

They don’t. Charter school students are never “cherry picked” from an applicant pool. Any student who applies to attend a charter school will be accepted, so long as they meet three basic criteria:

  1. They live within the schools geographic boundaries;
  2. They are applying to a grade taught by that specific school;
  3. Available seats are open in the grade-level to which the family is applying. At Harmony, if more students apply than there are available openings, the campus will hold a “blind” lottery to ensure fair an equal opportunity for enrollment to all new applicants.

RELATED: Learn more about Harmony Public School’s application, enrollment and lottery processes

When and how can a student apply to a charter school?

A student can apply to a charter school at any time during the school year and be accepted if space is available. However, most Texas public charter schools also offer an open enrollment period each year specifically for prospective new students. During this time, families can learn more about their charter school options and enter their name for the enrollment lottery, which is held in the event there are more applicants than available seats. For Harmony Public Schools, open enrollment runs each November 1 through February 10. 

MORE INFO: Learn more about how to apply to Harmony Public Schools.

How is a charter school funded?

As opposed to a traditional ISD school, which receives its funding primarily from the taxes local homeowners pay each year combined with additional funding from the state, charter schools receive their primary funding from the state and federal governments. Additionally, charters often receive both public and private grants to fund many of their innovative academic programs. For example, in recent years Harmony Public Schools has received grants of varying amounts from the U.S. Department of Education, the Texas Education Agency, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and the Elon Musk Foundation, among others.

Are Texas public charter schools for-profit?

No. By law, Texas public charter schools must be nonprofit entities. All funds received are used in the service of our students and school teams.

Do charter schools require uniforms?

That’s a decision that’s up to each charter school. At Harmony Public Schools, we do have a uniform policy. (Our students do get regular “free dress” days, though.)

Do charter schools offer the same types of programs and extracurricular activities as ISD schools?

Charter schools offer almost all of the same programs and extracurricular activities as ISD schools, though just like at an ISD school, the exact selection of extracurricular opportunities varies from campus-to-campus. Traditionally, charter schools specialize in offering a wide variety of academic-focused extracurriculars. For example, at Harmony Public Schools, some of our most popular extracurricular activities are our groundbreaking eSports clubs, LEGO robotics, rocketry, computer coding, and biomedicine. Our schools also compete in a wide variety of sports, including basketball, volleyball, soccer, and football. 

What level accountability do charter schools have to maintain?

Just like traditional ISDs, Texas charter schools must remain in good academic and financial accountability with the Texas Education Agency. That includes annual inclusion in the TEA’s Financial Integrity System of Texas (FIRST) and Overall Accountability ratings. Charter schools that do not meet these standards face closure by the TEA. Finally, to help families easily understand how their charter school is performing, the TEA has created a Charter School Performance Framework (CSPF), which grades charter districts on overall academic performance and closing achievement gaps.

What other differences are there between charter schools and traditional ISD schools?

There are a few other differences between Texas public charter schools and ISDs, but most don’t impact the day-to-day campus life of our students. For example, charter school boards consist of appointed volunteers with a unique interest in education, rather than private individuals who have chosen to run for election. However, charter school board meetings are still open to the public to attend and participate.

What about …?

We couldn’t possibly share all the things that make charter schools a unique and important part of the Texas educational environment in just one article. So if you have more questions, we’d love the opportunity to tell you more. Just tell us what you want to know in our Let’s Talk family communication platform, and we’ll reach out with an answer soon!


Harmony Public Schools Re-Enrollment for 2020-2021 is January 6-24

Re-Enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year for Harmony families begins soon.

During this time of year each January, we ask families to complete a simple, online Re-Enrollment process, letting us know they’ll be joining us for another great year of learning and fun next school year, which starts in August 2020.

This simple step allows us to make sure each current student’s spot at Harmony is reserved for the following school year, and assess how many new student seats we have available for other applicants.

Re-Enrollment at Harmony Public Schools runs January 6-24, 2020. Look for more details in your email inbox, via Skyward, or on our Facebook page soon. 

In the meantime, check out these 6 things families need to know about Re-Enrollment at Harmony Public Schools.

#1

What is the difference between Re-Enrollment and Open Enrollment?

Re-enrollment is intended for current Harmony students planning to stay at their current campus the following school year. Open Enrollment is for new students, or current students who wish to change Harmony campuses (ex. moving from elementary to middle school, transferring to a campus closer to home).

#2

When is Re-Enrollment season?

For the 2020-2021 school year, re-enrollment will be January 6-24, 2020.

#3

In what form will parents need to apply for Re-Enrollment?

The preferred method for re-enrollment is through the student’s online Skyward account. (A link to Skyward can be found at the top of your campus homepage or you can simply click here.). Parents without internet and/or Skyward access may also request a paper re-enrollment option from their child’s campus.

 #4

If a student plans to stay at the same school next year, are they automatically guaranteed re-enrollment if they complete the re-enrollment process before the deadline? 

Yes, so long as their family completes the re-enrollment process.

#5

What happens if a parent does not submit their re-enrollment information before the deadline?

If a parent misses the deadline to complete the re-enrollment process, then the student will lose his/her reserved space for next school year and must apply during Open Enrollment (Nov. 1, 2019 through Feb. 10, 2020) at HarmonyTX.org/Apply.

#6

What does a Harmony parent need to do if they would like to stay with Harmony, but transfer to a different campus for the next school year?

If a parent would like to change Harmony campuses for the following school year, they must submit an application for the desired school at HarmonyTX.org/Apply.

Open enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year at Harmony Public Schools has begun. Here’s everything you need to know to apply for next year.

Families of Current Harmony Public Schools Students Intending to Stay at Current Campus Next Year

Wait for your re-enrollment form to arrive at the start of the second semester, then submit it between January 6-24 to let us know you’ll be coming back in 2020-2021

Families of Current Harmony Public Schools Students Intending to Move Campuses Next Year

Visit HarmonyTX.org/Apply from Nov. 1-Feb. 10 to apply for enrollment to your new intended Harmony campus.

Families of Potential New Harmony Public Schools Students

Visit HarmonyTX.org/Apply from Nov. 1-Feb. 10 to learn more about Harmony and apply for open enrollment.

WHAT WE BELIEVE

Every child isn’t the same. So why should every school be?

Harmony Public Schools believes each student can achieve their own unique, full potential through a caring and collaborative academic environment that emphasizes personalized learning and innovative instructional methods.

WHAT MAKES HARMONY DIFFERENT

Engaging Education: Our project-based learning engages critical thinking skills and makes learning fun with hands-on activities that educate and excite.

Skills for Tomorrow: Our curriculum has been recognized by the TEA & others for providing students the STEM skills they need for the in-demand jobs of the future.

College Ready: Harmony has a 100% college acceptance rate, and almost two-thirds of our students are the first in their families ever to attend college.

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Does Harmony Public Schools charge tuition to attend?

Absolutely not. Harmony is a tuition-free, Texas public charter school. We believe every student deserves the opportunity to attend a high-quality public school that fits their individual needs regardless of income. 

Who is eligible to attend Harmony Public Schools?

All children residing in a Harmony school’s geographic boundary who meet registration requirements are eligible to attend. Unlike most other schools, though, Harmony’s geographic boundaries are much wider and generally include the entire community in which the school resides, meaning that all students in the area – regardless of neighborhood or family income level – have the same opportunity to attend a high-quality Harmony school.

What documents do I need to apply?

No documents are needed just to apply. However, if your child is selected for enrollment during the lottery process, you will need to provide a few basic documents that verify your child’s identity and home address.

I have a child in Harmony already, and would like to enroll their sibling for the first time. Do I still need to apply?

Yes. Siblings of current Harmony students still need to apply, but are given priority status if a campus lottery is needed.

 

DATES TO REMEMBER

November 1

Open Enrollment for 2020-2021 Begins for New Students

January 6-24

Re-Enrollment Period for Current Students

February 10

Open Enrollment for 2020-2021 Application Deadline

February 11-25

Campus Lotteries Held (if needed)

Apply Now!

 

Open En

Open enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year at Harmony Public Schools has begun. Here’s everything you need to know to apply for next year.

Families of Current Harmony Public Schools Students Intending to Stay at Current Campus Next Year

Wait for your re-enrollment form to arrive at the start of the second semester, then submit it between January 6-24 to let us know you’ll be coming back in 2020-2021

Families of Current Harmony Public Schools Students Intending to Move Campuses Next Year

Visit HarmonyTX.org/Apply from Nov. 1-Feb. 10 to apply for enrollment to your new intended Harmony campus.

Families of Potential New Harmony Public Schools Students

Visit HarmonyTX.org/Apply from Nov. 1-Feb. 10 to learn more about Harmony and apply for open enrollment.

WHAT WE BELIEVE

Every child isn’t the same. So why should every school be?

Harmony Public Schools believes each student can achieve their own unique, full potential through a caring and collaborative academic environment that emphasizes personalized learning and innovative instructional methods.

WHAT MAKES HARMONY DIFFERENT

Engaging Education: Our project-based learning engages critical thinking skills and makes learning fun with hands-on activities that educate and excite.

Skills for Tomorrow: Our curriculum has been recognized by the TEA & others for providing students the STEM skills they need for the in-demand jobs of the future.

College Ready: Harmony has a 100% college acceptance rate, and almost two-thirds of our students are the first in their families ever to attend college.

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Does Harmony Public Schools charge tuition to attend?

Absolutely not. Harmony is a tuition-free, Texas public charter school. We believe every student deserves the opportunity to attend a high-quality public school that fits their individual needs regardless of income. 

Who is eligible to attend Harmony Public Schools?

All children residing in a Harmony school’s geographic boundary who meet registration requirements are eligible to attend. Unlike most other schools, though, Harmony’s geographic boundaries are much wider and generally include the entire community in which the school resides, meaning that all students in the area – regardless of neighborhood or family income level – have the same opportunity to attend a high-quality Harmony school.

What documents do I need to apply?

No documents are needed just to apply. However, if your child is selected for enrollment during the lottery process, you will need to provide a few basic documents that verify your child’s identity and home address.

I have a child in Harmony already, and would like to enroll their sibling for the first time. Do I still need to apply?

Yes. Siblings of current Harmony students still need to apply, but are given priority status if a campus lottery is needed.

 

DATES TO REMEMBER

November 1

Open Enrollment for 2020-2021 Begins for New Students

January 6-24

Re-Enrollment Period for Current Students

February 10

Open Enrollment for 2020-2021 Application Deadline

February 11-25

Campus Lotteries Held (if needed)

Apply Now!

 

Open En