Education-by-lottery is, indeed, a bad idea


As Senate Education Chairman Dan Patrick continues to wring his hands over the plight of children on charter school waiting lists, the Austin American-Statesman reported a couple of interesting facts about charters today.

Citing the Sunset Review Commission, the newspaper noted that charter schools account for 71 percent of schools facing sanctions for failing to meet academic or financial standards. And, almost 18 percent of charter schools were considered “unacceptable” in 2011, almost four times the rate of traditional public schools.

Those figures make me wonder something. How many of those 100,000 Texas students who Patrick claims are on charter school waiting lists are refugees from bad charter schools? I bet more than a couple of dozen.

Fortunately – so far, anyway — not everyone on the Senate Education Committee likes Patrick’s SB2, which would essentially give the charter industry – with its bad apples and good apples alike – carte blanche to expand.

According to the article, Harmony Public Schools, the state’s largest charter operator, claims a waiting list so large that students selected are determined by lottery, which Patrick thinks is a shame.

“A parent and a student who believe they are in a failing school should not be relegated to having their name pulled out of a bingo-type or lottery mechanism where names pop into a little cup,” Patrick said. “That is no way to run an education system.”

Amen, Mr. Chairman. That is exactly the point against your approach to improving educational opportunities. No child should have to depend on the luck of a lottery – or being cherry picked — to get a chance at a quality education. But that is a fact of life for charters and will remain so, with or without SB2.

All these privatization schemes to the contrary – most charters are run by private operators – the vast majority of Texas children will continue to be educated in public schools. And, before charter schools are expanded, the Legislature at the very minimum needs to restore the $5.4 billion in public education budget cuts that Patrick voted for two years ago.

Tomorrow, the Senate will consider a budget proposal that would restore only $1.5 billion, about one-fourth of what was cut. That is not enough. It is a disservice to the school children of Texas to refuse to repair all the damage to their public schools, especially when $12 billion of taxpayer money is sitting in the Rainy Day Fund. That is more than enough money to restore all the public education cuts without adding a dime to anyone’s taxes.

Chairman Patrick needs to really help out the school children, all the school children, not simply expand the education-by-lottery business.



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