Nonprofit Q&A: How Do I Start a Private School?

Aug 17, 2012 by

What are some legal issues you need to consider when starting a private school?

Starting a school requires a dedicated team of individuals with a focus on providing a quality education. Before taking on this endeavor, you will need to evaluate whether there is a need for another school in your community, understand basic legal issues that will arise, and create a plan.

Here are some legal issues you may consider in the planning process.

Issue 1: Determine a Legal Structure for the School

Will your private school be for-profit or a nonprofit? A for-profit school will either be operated by a sole proprietor, partnership, limited liability company, or a corporation. A board of directors made up of community members and parents will operate a nonprofit school. Additionally, a nonprofit school will need to apply for 501(c)(3) status as a tax-exempt organization from the IRS.

Issue 2: Find Out About Requirements from the State Regarding Private Schools

The U.S. Department of Education does not regulate private schools. State and local governments will set out laws, regulations, and policies that will affect opening and operating private schools. In Texas, groups wanting to start a private school will need to look to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for guidance.

The U.S. Department of Education also publishes a guide on state regulation of private schools that offers a brief overview of state specific laws and regulations that you will need to know before beginning.

Issue 3: Deciding To Become Accredited

In Texas, private schools have the option to become accredited. TEA does not accredit schools. Instead, the State Commissioner of Education recognizes the accreditation power of the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC). TEPSAC works with several different accrediting agencies that evaluate the variety of private schools seeking accreditation.

Accreditation offers several benefits:

    • Transferability of student credits earned in accredited nonpublic schools to Texas public schools
    • Recognition of teacher service in accredited nonpublic schools for salary increment purposes in Texas public schools
    • Acknowledgment of all accredited elementary and secondary nonpublic schools in the Texas School Directory
    • TEPSAC meetings held biannually with Agency liaisons to ensure the ongoing integrity and quality of the process

Issue 4: Consider Other Major Issues for Starting a School

    • Curriculum – Will your school adhere to the state standards? Will you utilize other curriculum options (like a Montessori or Waldorf education)?
    • Enrollment – Where will you recruit students? What ages will you focus on?
    • Mission Statement & Vision – What type of learning environment will your school provide?
    • Income sources – What funding sources will the school pursue? Will students to pay tuition?
    • Facilities – Will the school build a new facility? Will the school lease a facility?
    • Faculty – Will teachers need to be certified? What standards will be in place?

Individuals wanting to start a private school in Texas should first reach out TEPSAC. Their website offers resources for start-up private schools and includes contact information for their accrediting agencies.

Learn More:

Texas Education Agency

Texas Private School Accreditation Commission

Texas Private School Accreditation Commission: Starting a School

U.S. Department of Education: State Regulation of Private Schools

We Can Help You Start a New School

The Cullinane Law Group works exclusively with the nonprofit sector: new schools, PTAs and PTOs, nonprofits, foundations, religious groups, and social entrepreneurs throughout the United States who seek to create positive change. Contact us today so we can help you start your new school. Founded by Texas nonprofit lawyer Mollie Wettstein Cullinane. We serve schools and nonprofits nationwide.

 

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