How Do I Start a Private School?

cullinane law how to start schoolWhat are some legal issues you need to consider when starting a private school?

Starting a private school, like a Montessori 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.

Comments

  1. Melanie S says

    Very clear first page. Thanks.

    I am in the process of starting a private school in San Francisco. I know that some existing private schools have different parts some of which are non-profit, where parents can make tax deductible donations, and others are for profit.

    One such school has its fees are deliberately set below operating costs and the difference made up with the tax deductible donations. The non-profit part meant that my husband was essentially shoved out because another teacher had found the top five paid teachers’ salaries and broadcast them. Needless to say it caused sufficient controversy to take action. He was certainly not one the highest paid in the school as non of the administrative staffs’ salaries were included.

    My point is I don’t want my teachers’ salaries broadcast but I do want to be able to accept donations and the incentive for the latter is tax deductability.

    Why do non profit for a private school? How can the school be divided into sections some for profit and others non for profit? Or to make the outset simpler which structure would you recommend?

    Many thanks,
    Melanie S

  2. Gail Schultz, M.Ed says

    I am considering starting a private school that will assist all students in their academic success to grow and be productive members of society. So many of our students in my area are at-risk and are slipping through the preverbal cracks in our current district. I have the drive and support of parents, but lack the knowledge and funding to bring this dream to light. Could you assist me with what I need to do and where to start to get the ball rolling? Some people say I can do this as a “home school” program. Hope to hear from you.

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