A helping hand for charters?

No one is trying to rewrite history this time, but there is another idea percolating before the State Board of Education that nevertheless may generate a fair amount of controversy. It is a proposal by Republican board member David Bradley of Beaumont to allocate about $100 million of the $22.1 billion Permanent School Fund to invest in buildings for charter schools.

The proposal recently was discussed by the board’s Permanent School Fund Committee, which Bradley chairs, and may soon be presented to the entire board.

Some charters operate in substandard facilities because they get no money for facilities from the state and have difficulty getting longterm financing because their operating contracts with the state are subject to renewal every several years. Bradley’s idea is for the state to get a return on rental payments from charter operators while helping the charters upgrade their classrooms.

The Permanent School Fund normally generates several hundred million dollars a year that the state spends primarily on textbooks for public school students. The endowment was created from stateowned land and mineral royalties and now is invested in stocks, bonds, real estate and treasury notes, among other things.

The proposed $100 million investment in charter rentals would represent only a fraction of 1 percent of the fund’s total endowment, but opposition already is surfacing.

In an editorial published this week, the San Antonio ExpressNews pointed out that charter school operators, as a group, have an uneven performance and financial record. “The Permanent School Fund needs to be managed for the benefit of all public education in Texas, not for the narrow interests of charter schools or – more accurately – politically connected charter schools,” the newspaper wrote. “This is a proposal that deserves to be scrapped.”

It also should be noted that charter schools educate only about 100,000 kids, while traditional public schools enroll 4.8 million. Many of those traditional schools also have substandard facilities, thanks to low property tax bases and inadequate state assistance. What does Bradley propose for them?


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