The rules, proposed by Education Commissioner Mike Morath, would significantly increase opportunities for charter school chains to expand in Texas, at a potential cost of hundreds of millions of additional dollars to taxpayers and public school districts.
Among other things, the proposed rules would give charter chains that the commissioner considers “high-performing” — those that score 80 percent or more — under a new “performance framework” almost carte blanche freedom to open new campuses without regard for the academic need for the new schools or the negative financial impact on the school districts in which the new campuses are located.
Charters already are receiving almost $3 billion in state revenue a year, and much of that goes to charters operated by for-profit management organizations. Every tax dollar they receive is a state tax dollar taken away from an under-funded, neighborhood public school.
TSTA policy specialist Carrie Griffith and representatives of other public education groups testified against the proposed regulations in a Texas Education Agency hearing this week.
“The education commissioner is supposed to be the state’s regulator of charters, not an advocate for charter chains,” TSTA President Noel Candelaria said. “The commissioner is supposed to act in the best interests of all Texas public school students and taxpayers, not give special breaks to charter operators. We believe these proposed rules violate the standards for charter expansion required by state law.”
Candelaria added: “Texas’ public schools have been historically underfunded, and the focus should be on improving our traditional neighborhood schools, where the vast majority of our students are educated. Taxpayers cannot afford to fund an unproven parallel school system at the expense of those neighborhood schools and their students.”
Griffith testified that a charter chain could violate the law and employ teachers who don’t have college degrees and still be rated “high-performing” because it would lose only one point under the commissioner’s new performance framework.
Also, under the framework, a charter chain could be labeled “high-performing” and allowed to expand in Texas without meeting all the expectations or providing all the services, such as special education, required of public schools.