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New charter school set to open in Arlington

A rear view of a classroom full of young students raising their hands as a female teacher at the front of the class holds up a skeleton arm.
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A new charter school is on track to open in Arlington next year, along with three others across the state.

A new charter school is on track to open in Arlington next year.

Infinite Minds was one of four charter schools approved by the Texas Board of Education last week at the recommendation of state Commissioner of Education Mike Morath.

The school will serve grades K-6 with an enrollment capacity of 483.

Founder Rachel King told the board she wants to offer more support for families in the 76010 zip code in east Arlington, where there are no charter schools.

“We want to be an additional option for families in this particular community,” she said.

Charter schools operate independently from other school systems, usually offering specialized courses but still receiving government funding. Their primary source of state funding comes from Foundation School Program, according to TEA.

Some board members had concerns on whether opening more schools is necessary with the recent low STAAR test scores across the state.

“When I look at these charters, at some point I’m not so concerned with someone being innovative as much as if they’re going to produce children that can read or write,” board member Julie Pickren said.

Many elementary and middle school students continue to struggle in math and science post-pandemic. This year, 34%of students met or mastered science and 41% met or mastered math, according to TEA ─ a decline from last year’s scores in both subjects.

Starlee Coleman, CEO of the Texas Public Schools Association and incoming president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, argued that parents need access to different choices of schools for their students to better support them in their education.

“Charters serve a disproportionate share of the lowest low-income students in the state,” she said, “and those students in charters outperform their ISD peers in every subject and in every grade.”

The board’s approval last week also comes as many school districts, including Arlington, struggle to fill budget deficits and public education leaders push back on the governor’s plan to create a publicly funded school voucher program.

The board narrowly approved Infinite Minds; members were split 6 to 7 on a vote to veto Morath’s recommendation.

Three other charter schools – Pathway Academy in Big Spring, the Texas Girls School in Austin, and Unparalleled Preparatory Academy in Manor – were also approved. An application for a fifth school was rejected.

The TEA will review the applications before giving final approval.

There are about 900 charter campuses and over 400,000 students enrolled in these schools, but 66,000 students remain on charter waiting lists, according to Texas Public Charter Schools Association.

This year there were 21 charter applicants but only five made it to SBOE for approval. TEA has only approved 13 percent of all charter applicants in the last eight years.

Charter applicants go through “a very vigorous process” during their pending approval, according to Morath. It includes multiple rounds of application reviews by TEA and “external experts,” recommendation for approvals, SBOE approval and a final review by TEA.

“Running a charter school is not a right,” Morath said. “Running a charter school is a privilege.”

Penelope Rivera is KERA’s news intern. Got a tip? Email Penelope at privera@kera.org.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Penelope Rivera is KERA's summer 2024 Scripps Howard news intern. She graduated from the University of North Texas in May with a B.A. in Digital and Print Journalism.