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The Great Debate: Public School vs. Charter School

Which one is right for your child?

As a parent, one of the most important decisions you will make is choosing which school to enroll your child in. There are plenty of factors to consider: quality of the classroom, qualified and trust-worthy educators, extracurricular opportunities, class size, community engagement programs and diversity and inclusion are just a few of the important components that play a role in this decision.

However, there is a lingering question among some parents about the difference between public and charter school, if one is better than the other and how choosing one over the other could benefit or detriment their child’s educational experience.

On the surface, public schools and charter school are similar. Government regulation, teacher certification, curriculum requirements and funding are some of the most prominent ways that charter schools differ from other traditional public schools.

Government regulation:

Both public schools and charter schools are required to meet certain test score, graduation rate and curriculum standards set by the government, but the degree of regulation varies between the different schools.

Standards for public schools are set by the State Board of Education (SBOE), which means that public schools might be held more accountable than other academic institutions in your area. Charter schools face fewer governmental regulations than traditional public schools, as standards can be set by a group such as for-profit organizations, local school districts or even teachers and parents themselves.

If charter schools do not meet their set standards, they can be shut down. Though that is also a possibility for a public school as well, they must receive a “Improvement Required” rating for 5 years in a row beforehand—and even then the state can take over the school district, to avoid a school shutdown.

Teacher certification:

While public school teachers must have certification from the State Board of Education, educators can seek employment at charter schools with or without certification—depending on the standards set by each charter, which can be located within many types of communities including urban areas, small towns, rural communities and suburbs.

Parents must decide for themselves which environment is best suited for their child. While many argue that schools with no certification requirement equal more curriculum flexibility, this does not determine the overall quality of a child’s education. That would depend on the school itself, not the label.

Curriculum requirements:

At charter schools, curriculum is flexible, which may benefit a child who is not able to adapt to a more conformed environment—but these schools are also held accountable to performance contracts or risk being shut down. The State Board of Education determines the curriculum for traditional public schools, which is put into effect by school districts. While curriculum flexibility has clear benefits, a recent study by Center for Research Outcomes at Stanford University found research to indicate that public schools are surpassing charter schools in standardized test scores.


Public schools are primarily funded by the State Board of Education and local state taxes. While charter schools are funded on a per-student basis via government funding, and typically receive less funding overall than traditional public schools.

The Debate

Public schools versus charter schools: is one better than the other? That’s a tough question and the answer will change depending on the person you ask and the school under consideration. In the end, there are a few factors that make a school system stand out—no matter the label. When considering your child’s future, pay close attention to the academic resources, the educators and the extracurricular opportunities offered at each prospective school. Look for an educational experience that fosters positive leadership opportunities and encourages community involvement for students and parents alike.

Irving Independent School District is one public school district in particular that has broken barriers in the Texas education system. Under the umbrella of Irving ISD, the schools offer students top-tier college prep programs and enviable extracurricular activities (like their nationally recognized fine arts programs) and even STEM-based career pathways within their Signature Studies program/initiative. With all of the strides that this Dallas County district has made in the public school sector, it’s no wonder why Irving ISD earned an “A-” rating on niche.com, and a “recognized performance” or “B” rating under the Texas Education Agency’s 2018 State Accountability System.

Did You know?

  • Irving ISD graduation rates are at an all-time high, reaching 94.8% for the 2017-2018 school year.
  • Irving ISD offers full-day, tuition-based pre-kindergarten as well as half-day, free  pre-kindergarten programs at three early childhood schools. (Clifton Early Childhood, Kinkeade Early Childhood School, Pierce Early Childhood School)
  • Over 13,000 students in grades 7-12 enrolled in industry-focused classes in the 2017-2018 school year, such as Civil Engineering, Aviation Science, Business and Entrepreneurship, Culinary Arts and Hospitality, Health Science and Law and Public Service.
  • Irving ISD was named as Best Community for Music Education for 2018 by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation.
  • 31 of the 33 Irving ISD campuses achieved the “met standard” rating–the highest  ranking for a school under Texas Education Agency (TEA).
  • Irving ISD offers Advanced Placement (AP) classes in 30 different subjects, making it possible to tailor your child’s education to their abilities. All Irving ISD comprehensive high schools also offer 80 dual-credit (college-level) courses—a zero-cost track to earn up to an associates degree—and an Early College Start program in partnership with Dallas Community Colleges and Northlake College.

While you research schools for your child, consider adding Irving ISD to your short list. Not only do Irving ISD schools provide exceptional classroom education, they also offer numerous fine arts and extracurricular options for students to cultivate their talents, explore their passions and develop self-esteem and self-discipline. Enrollment is now open to local and out-of-distrct families who want to make this school district their home. No matter the time or place, your family can excel with Irving ISD.

Promoted content provided by Irving Independent School District.