Day: <span>August 15, 2013</span>

Changing the charter approval process


The new state law that raises the cap on charter schools in Texas also transfers the approval of charter applications from the State Board of Education to the Texas Education Agency. Whether that makes a bad idea worse remains to be seen, but the same legislator who wanted more charters – Senate Education Chairman Dan Patrick –also was behind the transfer. So, keep your fingers crossed.

According to The Texas Tribune article linked below, Patrick was concerned that the elected, part-time board, which meets only five or six times a year, wouldn’t have the resources to adequately wade through an expanded number of applications. Yes, this is the same board with a vocal, ideological minority that periodically attempts to destroy public education. I doubt that figured into Patrick’s thinking, but who knows?

In any event, one of that vocal minority, board member David Bradley, already is vocal against the change. Noting that the ultimate control over who gets charters now will be vested in the state education commissioner, a political appointee of the governor, he told the Tribune, “If you want to see a political selection process that is going to create great stories for reporters, hang tough.”

I can hardly wait, although topping some of the ridiculous headlines generated by Bradley and his colleagues over the years will be difficult.

As I noted in a previous blog post, raising the cap on charters from the current 215 to as many as 305 by 2019 comes while charters in Texas, as a whole, continue to under-perform traditional public schools. In the new school accountability ratings released by the Texas Education Agency last week, 95 percent of 1,026 public school districts met state standards, compared to only 80 percent of charters – 161 of 202.

The new charter law also strengthens – at least on paper – state oversight of charter schools, which some legislators hope will make it easier to close down bad charter operators.

Maybe. But we will have to wait and see about that too.