There are several ways in which Education Commissioner Mike Morath’s proposed charter proliferation rules threaten public education and the taxpayers who pay for it. I am referring to the relaxed standards by which an existing charter operator could be deemed “high-performing” and allowed to open new campuses.
One standard is so relaxed it would allow charters to hire teachers without college degrees and still be considered “high performing.”
Charters would be rated under a new “performance framework,” and those charter holders that score 80 percent or more on the framework would virtually be given carte blanche freedom to open new campuses without considering the academic need for the new schools or the negative financial impact on the school districts in which the new campuses were located.
The proposed penalty, if you want to call it that, for a charter chain that breaks the law and hires teachers without college degrees would be the loss of only one point – one point — on the commissioner’s new performance framework. Not only could the charter continue to operate, but it also could expand, provided it met enough other requirements to meet the required score of 80.
As my colleague, TSTA policy specialist Carrie Griffith, testified in a hearing against the rules changes, the same charter chain “could replicate across the state and might even erect a $20,000 taxpayer-funded billboard promising ‘highly qualified teachers.’”
Carrie also pointed out that a charter chain that fails to meet federal requirements for special populations or English learners also could be rated “high performing” and allowed to replicate because those failed responsibilities, which are critical to thousands of Texas school children, are worth only one point to the commissioner’s office. That’s the size of the proposed penalty anyway.
And what about a charter school that fails to file PEIMS data in a timely manner or fails to handle STAAR materials or student records promptly? Again, the penalty is just one point.
“It is almost absurd that this is where we’ve come with all this, but it is the recommendation of the Texas State Teachers Association that charter schools in the state of Texas not be allowed to break the law,” Carrie testified. “At minimum, their statutory compliance should be a threshold requirement for being allowed to submit an amendment, especially one for expansion.”
The commissioner has not yet made a final decision on these rules, but if they remain unchanged, they will let charters proliferate almost like flies.
You can swat flies. But unnecessary charters will keep sucking up tax dollars from an underfunded public education system.