Harmony Charter Schools Expand Outside Texas

More than a decade ago Turkish born immigrants founded a science and math themed charter school here in Houston. It's become the largest charter school network in Texas. And now it's growing even more.

Next August the Harmony charter school network will expand outside of Texas for the first time.

It recently got approval to open a school in Washington, D.C..

Like its other schools, it will focus on science technology engineering and math, or STEM.

Soner Tarim is the CEO and Superintendent of Harmony Public Schools.

He says they picked DC as their next market for several reasons.

“There is not enough STEM schools in DC. Also there is great support in DC for charter schools and finally and most importantly, there is a financial incentive for charter schools to start in DC in terms of facility funding.”

In Washington, DC, the charter school will receive $3,000 from taxes for every student to pay for things like rent.

Here in Texas, charters don’t receive any tax dollars for their buildings — something they’ve pushed to change.

Tarim says Harmony is expanding in part thanks to a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Last year it also received another federal grant for $30 million from the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top program.

Tarim says Harmony will open more schools in Texas — but not any other states for now.

“We are carefully examining our next generation business plan to see how many schools it’s ideal for us to grow steadily without jeopardizing our program.

There are currently 40 Harmony charter schools in Texas with more than 25,000 students.

Bio photo of Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for KUHF, including K-12 and higher education.

Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and regularly contributed to WLRN, the local NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner...