AUSTIN – School will open on Monday, but nearly 17,000 Texas children will find the doors to their preferred charter schools locked, according to a report released today by the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

“Last year, at least 16,810 Texas students were on a waiting list to attend a public charter school,” said Foundation education policy analyst Brooke Terry. “Imagine the entire Pearland school district on a waiting list.”

The Foundation’s new report, “Calculating the Demand for Charter Schools,” is the first attempt to compile a Texas-specific waiting list for charter school enrollment. The report provides a statewide total (16,810) as well as regional breakdowns.

Terry said the reason so many students are unable to get into charter schools is because the Texas Legislature has capped the number of open-enrollment charters at 215. There are currently 210 active charters, and the State Board of Education is expected next month to grant the last five allowed under current law.

“If this cap is unchanged, the waiting list could get larger with more students being prevented from attending a charter school,” Terry said. “In 2009, the Texas Legislature should eliminate the cap so that new charters can meet the overwhelming parental demand.”

Terry noted that charter schools are public schools, and that many serve groups of students who are behind academically upon entering the charter school – such as high school dropouts or students at risk of dropping out because they are teenage parents, drug offenders, in foster care, or homeless.

“Many charter schools focus on students who have fallen through the cracks of the public school system,” she said. “Rather than writing these students off, we should increase the range of educational settings and options available to them so that they can receive the education they’ll need to be productive citizens.”

About the Texas Public Policy Foundation: TPPF is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin, Texas.

About Brooke Terry: Ms. Terry is an education policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.