Game, Set, and Match—Texas SBOE Member Looks at the Numbers Comparing Charter and Traditional Schools

State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, has taken a look at the performance data of Texas charter schools and traditional public schools operated by independent school districts, and his findings give cold comfort to charter proponents. Here’s Ratliff’s report on those findings and his conclusions published July 13:

Every year the Texas Education Agency releases the “snapshot” of the prior school year’s academic and financial performance for ISD’s and charter schools. These are the facts from the 2012-13 school year (the most recently released report – released last week). Check them for yourself here:

Thomas Ratliff

Thomas Ratliff

I offer the following key comparisons between ISDs and charter schools:

Dropout and Graduation Rates:

  • ISDs had a dropout rate of 1.5%, charters had a 5.5% dropout rate
  • ISDs had a 4-year graduation rate of 91%, charters had a 60.6% rate
  • ISDs had a 5-year graduation rate of 92.9%, charters had a 70% rate

Academic Performance:

  • ISDs outperformed charters on 3 out of 5 STAAR tests (Math, Science, Social Studies)
  • ISDs matched charters on the other 2 out of 5 STAAR tests(Reading and Writing)
  • ISDs tested 64.5% for college admissions, charters tested 44.2%
  • ISDs average SAT score was 1422, charters average was 1412
  • ISDs average ACT score was 20.6, charters average was 19.7

Staff expenditures & allocation:

  • ISDs spent 57.4% on instructional expenses, charters spent 50.9%
  • ISDs spent 6% [on] central administrative expenses, charters spent 13%
  • ISDs had 3.8% of employees in central or campus administrative roles
  • Charters had 7.6% of employees in central or campus administrative roles

Teacher salary/experience/turnover and class size

  • ISDs average teacher salary was $49,917, charters average was $43,669
  • ISDs had 15.3 students per teacher, charters had 16.8
  • ISDs had 32.1% of teachers with less than 5 years experience
  • Charters had 75.2% of teachers with less than 5 years experience
  • 24% of ISD teachers had advanced degrees, charters had 17.4%
  • ISDs had a teacher turnover rate of 15.6%, charters had 36.7%


Keep in mind these are statewide numbers and admittedly, there are good and bad ISDs and there are good and bad charter schools. But, at the end of the day, we are talking about the state of Texas as a whole and over 5 million kids and their families.

Here are the conclusions I reach after studying the data and talking to experts, educators and people in my district and across Texas.

1) For at least the second year in a row, ISDs outperformed charter schools on dropout rates, state tests, graduation rates, and college entrance exams. If charters are supposed to be competing with ISDs, they are getting beaten in straight sets (to use a tennis analogy).

2) Charter schools spend more on central administrative expenses and less in the classroom, which leads to larger classes being taught by less experienced teachers.

3) Charter schools pay their teachers $6,248 less per year than ISDs. Many refer to competition from charter schools as a key factor to improving education. I do not see this “competition” helping teachers as some try to claim. The fact is, charters hire teachers with less experience and education to save money. This results in a high turnover rate. Over a third of teachers at charter schools leave when they get more experience or more education. Many times, they go work for a nearby ISD.

In conclusion, when you hear the unending and unsubstantiated rhetoric about “failing public schools” from those that support vouchers or other “competitive” school models, it is important to have the facts. ISDs aren’t perfect, but they graduate more kids, keep more kids from dropping out and get more kids career and college ready than their politically connected competitors. Any claims to the contrary just simply are not supported by the facts and at the end of the day facts matter because these lives matter.


  1. Vicki P says

    I worked at a charter school for one semester, it was a scam. There were no textbooks, supplies, or anything else one needs to teach with. They spent all the money on admin salaries. The students were all on free lunch but they encouraged them to buy junk food from their snack bar. This school has been operating for 16 years. The turn over is crazy. Most classes are taught by subs. It was a horrible experience.

  2. Susan Sharp says

    Thank you for doing the research. One comparison not included was number of actually certified teachers. As a retired public school teacher and administrator (35 years), I could write a lengthy dialogue. This will do for now.

  3. Laurie Ebarb says

    I am a Public school Music Teacher and I want to THANK you for publishing these facts. I will share it !

  4. Ray says

    I am a retired band director. I taught across all levels for 37 years. Thank you for your due diligence and setting the record straight.

  5. Crystal says

    “ISDs had 15.3 students per teacher”?????? Man, would I love to know where he discovered *this* data!! It certainly causes me to question the veracity of the rest of his data.

    • says

      We believe this is teacher-student ratio, which is different than class size. The ratio often includes all instructional staff and thus is much smaller than class sizes.

      • Toni says

        On the flip side of that though, fewer of these specialized teachers (charters often don’t have special ed or extensive sports programs) could mean that the classes aren’t any bigger in charter schools simply because of a larger teacher to student ratio. The classes could still be smaller even.
        I would also note that many charter schools are directed toward at risk youth, so of course their numbers would be worse in drop out rates and test scores.
        Yes, he presented facts but did not factor in ALL of the facts.

        • Miss J says

          I don’t see that most charter schools are directed toward at risk students. They might offer an alternative for parents with students who don’t respond as well to the traditional setting of public schools. The high turn over rate of teachers can lead to a less connected faculty and lessen students’ feelings of being cared for and invested in by adults. RELATIONSHIPS make all the difference.

    • Susan Patton says

      You have to remember to count the music teacher, physical education teacher, librarian, and all the special education teachers into the staff equation. This will lower the student to teacher ratio without affecting the class size. Mr. Ratliff has done a good job presenting data and not opinions.

    • Michele Holmes says

      The student/teacher ratio is an average. An average is a measure of central tendency used for comparisons. This ratio is only calculated for campuses and districts, not individual classrooms. Teachers who work in positions with small ratios or positions in which no students are assigned to them will affect the average. The same is true for teachers who eventually see every student on campus. One cannot possibly imagine walking into school and seeing 15 students in each room. My husband was a band director with as many as 300 students enrolled in his class. Yes, he did have some assistants, but never anymore than 3. So that’s more like a 1:75 ratio. I was an ESL teacher who had no more than 10 students actually assigned to me but provided inclusion services and progress monitoring for about 80 students each year.

    • Travis says

      I’m one of two band directors on my campus. We currently have 280 students enrolled in band. My biggest class is 64 students. On the flip side, any teachers who are not assigned specific students will lower the total teacher/student ratio. This is how averages work. You must have learned math at a charter school.

  6. Gary Willis says

    Wonderful set of facts. Hopefully, this will help prevent diversion of public moneys to support private schools.

    • David E says

      The people who want to use the vouchers for public money to private schools are not people who use or understand facts.

  7. Sandra Poth says

    Dear Mr. Ratliff,
    My sincere thanks to you for cutting to the chase and comparing ‘apples to apples’ in a concise and very meaningful manner that says what proponents of public education continue to believe—that charter schools are siphoning off resources but are producing little bang for the public buck.
    It is not all about test scores although those should be used as a component of evaluation. Your simple manner for comparing schools COULD be used for the overall accreditation/accountability for public and charter schools…rather than creating metrics with questionable value that few people can understand, much less put to practical use in their own lives and the lives of Texas’ school children.
    I commend you and hope you will continue to look at this issue with the same clear and credible manner you presented this information.
    Again, thank you from a VERY proud 37-year education veteran of public schools
    Sandra L. Poth, former director of testing and evaluation for Northside ISD, San Antonio, Texas

  8. Jimmy Sandifer says

    Thank goodness someone in a position that can be effective is finally talking sense based on facts and not just for politically expedient reasons.

  9. Ms. Jon Gatlin says

    Your last name is familiar as a state senator from MT. Pleasant for this area.
    I am glad that you made this study and found this out. I taught for 45 years in Houston suburbs: Spring Branch (when it was top of the heap) and Northshore (an area building up in Galena Park ISD). All teachers that I knew were aware that our students were being taught better and were better prepared for college or work. We found that teachers who tried to make the SBOE aware of this, our representatives, etc. were ignored. It is difficult to convince people when they think they know better. Touche on this achievement of yours. I wish you could also do something about the mess the current history books are that teachers are going to have to do so much extra work to teach correct facts or they will just slug through and the students will be taught the incorrect facts. Again, my thanks.

  10. Guest Teacher says

    As a teacher in a charter school, I can tell you that we have a greater proportion of at-risk students enrolling because they are unable to succeed in a traditional setting. Given that these students are on the fast track to dropping out, any graduated students from our charter school represents a life changed through education. Your comparisons are apples to oranges.

    I have experienced three instances where our charter school actually saved students from committing suicide because the students were bullied badly at the ISDs; our charter school was their last hope. Where is this data shown in your statistics? Is it fair to blame charter schools for poor performance when we are educating the same students the ISDs failed first? By taking on those at-risk students we also take on the low performance data, making ISDs look better for having unburdened poor performers. A 60% graduation rate is phenomenal when 90% of that group was destined to fail in a traditional setting.

    Of course charter schools are going to spend more in administrative costs, they are setting up administrations and offices for just one or a few schools, rather than spreading costs across an enite district. This data comparison is meaningless.

    One thing I’ve learned by studying data for decades is that you can twist the data to show anything you want. Charter schools are not the enemy. Instead of spending time trying to prove that charter schools are bad, why not spend time building partnerships between schools and the community, why not share resources, why not learn from each other? Diversity in education is positive. Providing students with alternatives and second chances in education is positive. When you set out to find negatives you will always succeed. Instead, why not take a risk and set out to seek the positive?

    • says

      Thanks, you’re right on the mark about the value of some charters. We certainly are not out to demonize them. We consitently advocate careful scrutiny of new applicants and oppose “charterization” of neighborhood schools by charter chains as part of our accountability system based more on punishment than support. Additionally, Texas AFT has successful examples of in-district charters in Austin and San Antonio that add even another option to the mix. You’re right that diversity and different opportunities are important.

    • Sherna says

      Great point!!! Although difficult for most people to understand, especially if their children do well in public schools, charter schools are an opportunity for those kids who struggle in the ISDs. I agree that this is NOT a reasonable comparison.

      • Sean says

        It’s a comparison using data. There are definitely benefits to charter schools that are hard to collect data on. Although, working as a special education teacher in a public school I can also say that there are things we are doing and ways we are helping students that don’t reflect in the data also. We’ve got students in mentoring programs and in counseling through the school that may not have that otherwise. We’ve also had students leave to go to charter schools and then come back a few years later because of the lack of opportunities (electives) and then struggled for a year to catch up because the curriculum was a little different. You’re right… apples and oranges.

    • Ralph Cruzan says

      The biggest problem I have with charter schools is the lack of teacher rights and the lower pay.
      Lower pay equals less taxes but is it fair to ask a professional to live on a less than a living wage?

    • Chris says

      This is a fact based presentation. The author si state that this is not a school by school review but a presentation of facts based on the statewide report card. Your charter school may be better than the norm, but it is not the norm of charter schools in general across texas.

    • Stacy says

      In my experience, charter schools tend to pay their administrators very high salaries for much smaller numbers of students. Why would someone who has 250 students in a school have the same salary as one whose population is triple that number? Remember, also, that while your charter may cater to an underserved population, others are created for higher-achieving students. Therefore, the numbers should balance out.

    • Paul Mayhan says

      No one seems to be thinking about the benefits in many charters that are difficult to measure or don’t make an impact on STAAR tests or the ACT. Things like more elective classes where students can learn art and music, practical life skills like shop, or hear about jobs they may be interested in from a CTE class. Most ISDs offer little or nothing in these “enrichment” type classes, but charters are doing a lot more with it.
      Then there is the corruption that is rampant in ISDs. It’s easy to tout a high pass rate when struggling students are given passing scores for failing work. You can force feed anybody enough knowledge to pass the STAAR test. But the reason that graduation rates are higher in ISDs is because they let the at risk kids do whatever they want all day. They don’t hold them accountable for academic performance, behavior, or character development. It’s easy to keep them there when you create an environment that is friendly to underachievers and hostile to intelligent kids. Then when they drop out anyway, someone shows up at their parents’ house with homeschool paperwork so that it looks like they just transferred.
      ISDs look better because they are focused on looking better. They tweak the numbers and use technicalities to give TEA what they want. Yes, some charters are horrible and run by incompetent admins and teachers. Absolutely charters pay their teachers less and so have a less experienced staff overall that turns over faster. But many also are the only school in their communities that actually hold kids to an objective standard and don’t let the bad students destroy the learning environment for all the others. That alone makes them vital.

      • Karen Newsome says

        Paul Mayhan, where are your facts and data? As stated in Ratliff’s article, which offers real data, the preponderance of the evidence is in favor of ISDs. Your arguments might carry more weight if you were to provide evidence and data.

    • Leonard says

      Data cannot be twisted. Data is data. Converting data to information is a matter of intelligent organization and skeptical assimilation into already accepted background. The problem is not the data, but the willingness to present and interpret it in meaningful ways. Contingent and pluralistic viewpoints should always be engaged in this activity, and critique and debate should be politely shared. Never blame the data. Blame the faulty presentation or lazy interpretation…. i.e., the faulty presenters or the lazy interpreters.

    • C Ibarra says

      Even if I concede that, perhaps, some charter schools target and enroll a higher percentage of at-risk students, they do not typically service the most profoundly impaired students like ISDs do. I don’t know of any in my area that have to provide services for 3 & 4 year old PPCD students, occupational and physical therapy, one-to-one ASL interpreters, life skills, autism support, etc.
      These have a significant impact on staffing, funding and outcomes data.

      I’ve also heard about the parent contracts for students enrolling in charters. Add to that the parents that are choosing an “elite” type charter and are willing to transport their children and provide whatever is needed for them to attend. That is a sharp contrast to the amount of parental support and involvement many of our students receive.

    • Elaine says

      Does your charter school have a policy about behavior? I wondered if the students who act out and cause lots of problems for the teachers are allowed to stay or are they asked to leave? The reason I ask is because in my public school, we had a family of students who did cause teachers a lot of trouble. The left and went to a charter school, but not long after, they re-enrolled in the public school.

  11. Todd says

    A more honest comparison would be to compare teach charter schools to the ISD they draw students from.

  12. Craig says

    This study does not take into account the different populations that each type of school serves. It also doesn’t recognize the fact that many ISD schools push their most challenging students to charter and other alternative schools. In fact, this study is so simplistic that it shouldn’t be used to make any conclusions at all.

  13. Dana Yancy says

    ISD’s allow students to opt out of graduation by letting parents sign homeschool papers so those numbers never get reported. I run a tutoring service for homeschoolers and see many students in a years time. Most of the students have been out of school trying homeschool for over a year before they find me or someone like me who is a retired public school teacher. The vast majority of dropouts who are trying to homeschool don’t!

    If the child’s parents have a college degree, the child’s parents will find a way to make homeschool work for them by hiring a tutor or sending the child to a private school that does not take STAAR.

    I implore you to look at the ISD homeschool numbers and longitudally look at whether those students ever finish high school and go to college. You may find that you are surprised to see what the real statistics are.

    • says

      Interesting point. We’ll give it a look. Although we could fill a room with education researchers and argue all day on how to calculate graduation/dropout rates!

  14. Jim Sowards says

    Thanks for provide Texas with information that allows us to see what the facts are about education.

  15. Russell Manning says

    Good numbers but Charter vs Public is not Apples to Apples for numerous reasons. Students are not the same and they get no local tax money. I am a public educator with 21 years teaching/counseling. Numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

  16. CECILIA Rodriguez-Bush says

    Congratulations for a well presented, concise address of a critical subject. My concern is the validity of the data due to “variances” in the gathering and reporting of school statistics. That aside, your stance was the opposite of what I expected: a lead in on why Texas needs to jump on the Charter school ,Voucher wagan.

    A friend in education pointed out one point you missed: many public school teachers have moved to employment with Charter systems only to be very disappointed in s system where they are employed “at the pleasure of administration, parents and board members. That seems indicative of a deeper problem – consistency in education for our kiddos.
    Thank you again for a great article.

  17. Mike Rains says

    About time a state-elected official comes out with the truth concerning public vs. charter. Kudos to Mr. Ratliff

  18. Norman Chaney, Jr. says

    What ISD’s had such wonderful numbers ? Has this idiot ever been in a Dallas, Houston, or San Ano school ? Not the ones in the lily white burbs … the inner city ones where nobody graduates or goes to college. At least that’s what the parents say.

    • Thomas Hernandez says

      I teach in Pasadena. We are the largest Houston suburb and are anything but “Lilly white.” Your characterization of Houston’s schools are not accurate. Not in the least. I think you need to do some research. The numbers in this study seem pretty on point with what PISD and HISD achieve.

  19. Sally Parrish says

    Very telling results, thanks for printing them. Public schools have to have accountability! Charters don’t.

  20. Steven Saucier says

    I would like to see the “at risk” and special education percentages of both school populations to make an accurate assessment of performance… Since neither have been given, conclusions derived from this data alone are meaningless regarding performance percentages.

  21. Heather Mahaffey says

    We must continue to place faith and funds in our public education system and the therefore in the students it represents. Two systems are not better than one. And yes the numbers do speak loud and clear. Public education is working. We do not need another system. We need resources and funding for our current system. Support Public Education!

  22. James A. Driy says

    I agree with the statistics but we must remember that 1 bad charter school can sway the mean a lot more than one bad ISD school, simply because there are far fewer charter schools. A better comparison might be to adjust for numbers of students involved in each.

  23. Dena Mojica says

    When is Texas finally going to really look at our ACT/SAT participation and performance rates in comparison to other states’ rates? When will we accept the fact that after more than two decades of standardized testing on a curriculum that continues to be a mile wide and an inch deep we remain in the bottom 10 on ACT/SAT? Articles have been written bragging about increases in performance on both but the same articles fail to emphasize that typically only a little over 1/3 of the students in Texas even participate. Accountability is important but what do we want to be accountable for in TEXAS? And seriously, honest reporting of drop-out rates must include students that leave public schools for home school in the rural areas. Many of these students are not completing high school at home. They have simply given up on themselves and the school system. Good things are happening in Texas Public Schools but as always there is still work to be done. Praises to Aycock for HB5 Foundation High School Program. Every student deserves to have an educational program designed to challenge and inspire their unique interest and abilities. Thank you for organizing and sharing this study. I hope more educators and parents take the opportunity to read this article. I appreciate your dedication to the students of Texas. The challenge is intriguing and so worthwhile.


      ISD’s are forced by the assessments and accountability standards to push every kid to take the SAT/ACT, even paying for it; Charters, and even other countries only send their best and brightest to take those tests…. and the average still leans toward public;

  24. Harriet Williams says

    Ratliff is a welcome voice of reason. We must keep him on the SBOE . The majority of charter schools are ineffective . Public schools need more advocates like Mr. Ratliff

  25. Al Burkhalter says

    I always enjoy reading what Thomas writes. What he writes is always so thoughtful and well researched.

    It would be interesting to me to have Thomas write and article approaching the following question: “Why is the reading level of freshmen college students today at the seventh grade level?”.

    Google: ‘college freshmen reading level’ and you will get several articles similar to the following –

    • Dee Martin says

      Perhaps your comment on college freshman reading level would carry more weight if the first google “source” was not Breitbart or a similar site with a political agenda. Often search results are pushed farther down the page in favor of people who pay.

  26. Janda Raker says

    I totally agree on almost all points here. However, to be fair, I think we need to remember that many students who are in trouble in public schools–have discipline problems, are failing academically, do not choose to follow rules, have poor attendance, etc., leave public schools and go to charter schools. So odds are stacked against the charter schools from the beginning. Just sayin’.

    • Dee Martin says

      Al this article actually quotes the Breitbart article you already mentioned. Breitbart pays to have it’s results moved up to the top of the page. By referencing Breitbart this website “tags along” with no new information or data to back up it’s claims.

  27. Mark Whiting says

    “Figures don’t lie, but ….” Let me start by saying that some of what the author says about charter schools is true. Quality can and will vary over time in both charter schools and public ISDs. Charters do tend to pay teachers less and expect them to spend more time with the students. The good charter schools will reward the teachers who choose this path with an environment much less encumbered in administrative red tape, i.e., with much more freedom to teach. And I do believe that having ISD board members whose children attend charter rather than ISD schools has given the alternative perspective needed to help our local ISD improve as much as it has. Speaking as a parent, my main concern with our local ISD five years ago was how poorly it prepared its students for SUCCESS in college (not just getting into college). When dozens of young men, all reasonably intelligent, all flunk out of whatever college they chose within two years, something is wrong and needs to change. Those students never learned their SAT words (because that’s not part of the State Standards test) and never wrote a term paper (for the same reason). The charter school we chose for our younger son, we believe, has much better prepared him for academic success in college. We will soon know if that is indeed the case.

    • says

      True, there are some great charters out there as well. Although many of the most successful get a considerable amount of outside funding in grants/corporate funding. We’ve long supported the idea of charters being centers of innovation.

  28. says

    three x seven = twenty-one or 3 x 7 = 21 …three – 7 = 21? Ambiguous, don’t you think?

    I am a retired educator. My various positions over my career included working with charters schools while at Education Service Center, Region 20 in San Antonio. Before anyone gets too excited about the numbers, there are other variables to consider. There should be a breakdown of those same stats for elementary schools, middle schools/junior high schools, and high schools respectively. Then there should be an analysis of why students are enrolled in charter schools, especially at the high school level. Are they there because they were removed from a regular public school? …because of repeated behavior issues. At what academic level are the students functioning at when they enter a charter school. What addition expenses do charter schools have to incur that result in the differences in academic spending and educator salaries and positions. Two things might be noted: higher discipline issues in charter schools may require more administrative personnel, and charter schools do not, in most cases, have the funds for extra curricular activities, because they do have to pay for electricity, etc. Also, consideration needs to be given to the fact that charter schools hire more teachers with less than five-years experience, because public schools don’t or won’t. Finally, the analysis of charter schools should be broken down into those setup within a public ISD and those established independent of a supporting district.

    I understand there is an agenda here. But to make a decision when ramifications are this larger need to be down with as many facts as possible; not just general numbers to sell a position.

    I am not making these comments in support of charter schools one way or another. I do believe that the laws governing charters are not necessarily designed for them to ever succeed.

  29. Randall Conrad says

    This is so completely biased. You completely ignore the reality in that Charter School attendance actually requires a student to work at an education, not just have it handed to them by some bureaucratic mess of institutionalized education based on ridiculous performance tests.

    It is interesting how this report plays directly into a Union’s propaganda. Worthless. Just worthless.

    • Ralph Cruzan says

      You ignore the fact that charter schools do not pay a living wage. The biggest problem I have with this report is I really think Mr. Radliff is exaggerating how much charter teachers are paid. Something makes me think you are being played by worthless propaganda.

      • says

        We get this kind of comment a lot. Here’s how we’ve replied recently:

        Actually, we are a union. We see this comment a lot on Facebook, and we might have to do a general post to set things straight. Just because you don’t have collective bargaining or a right to strike, or you’re in a right-to-work state, doesn’t mean that you don’t fit the definition of a labor union–which is bascially: employees organized to protect their rights and interests, and to advance their profession. But most important, you really need to embrace the union movement. 1) We are designated by IRS status 501(c)(5) as a labor union, and we are required to report certain financial information just like any bargaining union. 2) We are aaffiliated with AFT national, which has local unions (both bargaining an non bargaining) across the country. And we have some 30 local affiliated unions that are self-governed. 3) We are affiliated with the AFL-CIO, and the Texas AFL-CIO 4) We are counted in all those unions for number of members (in fact, we are the largest union in the Texas AFL-CIO 5) We do have elected consultation in several districts, in which we won school board policies allowing for the election of one organziation to represent school employees in negotiations over pay and working conditions. Although not contracts, these consultation agreements usually garner school board approval, and thus are a form of bargaining. 6) And we certainly are considered a union by reporters, our fellow unions who do bargain, and our adversaries. 7) We realize that some politicians only use the word “union” with us to try and taint us with unfavorable stereotypes, but we’re proud of the union label. 8) We even use “A Union of Professionals” in our tagline 9) We serve as members and leaders of Central Labor Councils, groups of labor unions organized in cities to collaborate. So what are the other teacher unions in Texas? Just one other group meets most of above–the Texas State Teachers Association, which is affiliated with the National Education Association. And they embrace the union label. And in fact, we have three “merged unions” with them, meaning these three local unions are affiliated with both of us: Education Austin, The San Antonio Alliance, and Education Round Rock. The other two main organizations are the Association of Texas Professional Educators, which is not a union, and the Texas Classroom Teachers Association. Not only does ATPE accept administrators as members, but it also openly rejects the concept of a union and collective bargaining. They prefer what they call a “team approach,” which is fine and dandy in concept, but we disagree that it’s the best way to protect the rights of non administrators. TCTA isn’t as openly against the concept of unions—although they note that they are not affiliated with any in their self description–but it certainly doesn’t embrace the label, and it’s an organization intended just for classroom teachers and other professionals, but not support personnel. While we compete with the other groups for members, we still work together on a variety of issues, particularly in legislative sessions.

  30. Randy says

    But are you considering apples to apples? Most of the charter schools in town are low income areas & students. Compare charters to the same demographic population. Many charter students are trying to escape the violent ISD campus.

    • says

      This snapshot doesn’t. But comprehensive studies of charters by TEA/Texas Center for Educational Research consistently show that charters are outperformed by traditional ISDs with direct comparisons of student populations (e.g. economically disadvantaged, race, etc.) in test scores. Although we’d need to check again on dropout and attendance figures. Also the data in the post related to class size, salary, teacher turnover, etc., is still pertinent with this comparison.

  31. psittacid says

    Wow! Using data to come to a conclusion that may be at odds with ideology. You can get ejected from the Republican Party for that kind of reckless behavior.


      Mr. Ratliff is an example of my point of view that you can be Christian, conservative, small government minded, and NOT be opposed to public education

  32. Bob Hall says

    Very disengenous article. Keep in mind that ATF is a LABOR UNION with a mission to make make any alternative to government schools look bad. They will do and say anything to adgitate their base to gain donations and membership for the union organization. ATF has no concern for the quality of education being delivered in the classroom to our most precious product, our children, or the rights of parents and students. Their only interest lies in increasing membership and money for ATF.

    • says

      We are AFT, not tobacco and firearms. And it’s not our job to make alternatives to public schools look bad. There are obviously many high-performing charters, and many charters that serve a specific purpose for certain communities. What we object to is an agenda to use corporate charter chains to privatize and segregate our school systems. And we’ll be blatantly frank that our main concern is developing a professional, respectful and rewarding work environment for both school employees and schoolchildren. That often comes about when you have power, as in power in numbers and a collective voice. Any concern for money is purely to meet that goal–to organize more school employees.

  33. says

    Thank you Mr. Ratliff for being the first politician I’ve seen stand up for public education. Always listen to the people who are there every day and know what is going on. We educators knew most of this information already, but appreciate the fact that you took the time to research and present it to everyone. Listening to the people and not getting “paid off” is a very important attribute. Stay strong and help us educators stand together and fight for what is right. Help put the decisions for education back into the hands of educators!!

  34. Deltra says

    I have worked at the elementary level in both public and charter school. Public schools are bogged down in bureaucratic red tape that hinders the educational process. Charter schools are run by the Betsy DeVos’ of the world and focus on mandatory forced fund raising. They are often times lacking in materials and supplies and the administrators are more concerned with collecting high salaries and hiring their unwualified relatives. I returned to corporate America because both are seriously lacking.

  35. KED says

    Interesting article. But I don’t think it’s fair to look at charters as a whole group. By their very nature, charters can and do differ from each other significantly. To compare all public schools with all charters is to compare a barrel of apples with a bowl of fruit salad. Based on extensive research into area public schools, area charters, and even homeschooling before we chose a path to take, I suspect my own children will be well-prepared for college success at the charter we have chosen to attend; but there are many area charters I wouldn’t even begin to consider sending them to. We feel very lucky to have been admitted to our charter via a very competitive and non-secretive lottery (i.e., we know how many applicants there were, and the waiting list is transparent in that anyone can find out where they stand at any time.) Furthermore, in recently-released rankings, our specific charter is performing comparably to public schools as a whole and better than many individual public schools, including many in the well-regarded school district to which we are zoned.

  36. Jeff says

    Good info but not sure it is the complete story, I would be curious to know if Texas is like Arizona in that all the troubled kids that get booted from the public schools only option remaining is charter schools?

  37. Andrea Roussel says

    Can you please define how you captured the dropout rate? I know in our Charter school some students move back to the public school system. This doesn’t mean that they dropped out and didn’t return to school – which I feel can make your metrics a bit misleading. In addition, how did you calculate graduation rate?

    In addition I have been in sales for a number of years, for every study that says ones thing there is another that says the complete opposite. It is important to understand who funded the study and make sure that the bias didn’t carry over to the way in which they captured the results. I agree with many other statements above to compare all ISDs to all charters is like apples to oranges. You would be more credible if you called out the schools/districts that you used to capture your data. This would help people have a true understanding of what you are depicting.

    • says

      This was something analyzed and presented by then SBOE member Ratliff last summer. You’d have to go to him for definitions. But peppered through these comments are links to other reports that demonstrate the same overall findings. You might have a look at for a long list of articles on charters, including several that present other reports.

    • Thomas Ratliff says

      This wasn’t a “study” funded by a third party, this is data presented on TEA’s own website based on data submitted by ISDs and charter schools. This includes data from EVERY ISD AND CHARTER in Texas. There is no sampling, spinning, twisting, or omitting data. Here’s the link to the data tables.

      I’ll be the first to admit that there are wonderful examples of schools in both groups, and there are those that fall short. Neither group consists of merely “apples” or “oranges” as suggested. Both groups offer diverse programs to unique students and student bodies. Both groups have GT kids, SPED and 504 kids, ELL kids, etc., etc. To suggest otherwise is inaccurate.

      This report was meant to address the endless rhetoric about our “failing” schools with actual data and comparing ISDs to the more politically popular charter schools.

      One note. The reason charters are shown to pay their teachers less is because many times they hire uncertified teachers or new teachers with little or no experience as a way to save money. It’s a business decision.

      I’m happy to answer more questions or engage in a conversation with anyone interested in this topic. My email is

  38. Randy Ohman says

    Remember that this is a hot item now as Austin legislative religious zealots use ‘school choice’ and charters as a smoke screen to pull scrutiny from what they really want: your tax dollars for their religious schools.

    • Joe says

      The Establishment Clause of the Constitution should eliminate that. As soon as they use a single public dollar to fund a religious school, they are open to lawsuits.

    • Jonny D. Rupe says

      Most people that send their children to parochail school don’t want your educational tax dollars for religious education. They want their educational dollars to go to educate their children as they see fit. This is why they want vouchers. The Establishment Clause won’t stop a person from spending that person’s educational money at a parochial school.

  39. Jonny D. Rupe says

    After analyzing the data from this article, it became clear to me why the voucher system was proposed. People who children were having trouble in public schools needed an alternative as well as people who did not want the children going to public school. Charter schools, home schooling (with or without tutors), or changing public school districts are the only alternatives. The people who choose charter schools or homeschooling are now paying to school their children twice. Once through the property taxes which go to schools which they no longer get the benefit and then added cost of their decision to not go to public school. Charter schools also loose because monies that should come to them to educate the children that go there from the tax dollars of the parents who choose charter schools. The public schools get the tax money. This is what made the pay discrepancies the low retention and the less quailified teachers. This in turn leads to the rest of the poor numbers for charter schools. If you want to find a problem always follow the money.

    I can see now why it is game, set, match. It’s all about the money. It is a I need to keep all the money (game), Do anything you can to keep getting the money (set) and try to kill vouchers (match) and let the children who don’t want or are having trouble in public school be damned.

    I don’t have a dog in this fight. This is just the way I see it. I not even sure vouchers will work but wth vouchers people have the freedom to choose right or wrong about their own children’s education and not the bureaucrats. I am all about freedom.

    • says

      You might do some more reading on charter schools. They do receive public taxpayer dollars. As for vouchers, it’s more complicated than “freedom.” If you follow that line of thinking you could have everyone not pay taxes for schools, and only those who could afford to educate their children would, and we’d have a substantial majority of kids who are uneducated.

  40. Joe Slayden says

    Thank you for this. My grandmother was a teacher and my wife is as well. They are dedicated and truly care about their students, and worked until nightfall granding and working on lesson plans, despite not being paid any extra for it.

    This is being packaged as “choice” when really it is an initiative for private companies to get public funds and to break the teacher unions because they like to spread the myth that teachers are overpaid.

  41. Jonny D. Rupe says

    In reviewing your comments I went to the website you posted and copied and pasted this statement from that website, “Unlike independent school districts, open-enrollment charter schools do not receive funds from local tax revenue.” It isn’t about paying taxes. I pay school taxes and haven’t had children in school for 23 years. When your children leave school you don’t get to quit paying school tax. Vouchers seem to be the only way of leveling the playing field. I understand public schools do not want to loose funding and will try to do anything to stop other educational facilities from receiving “their funding”. It is all about the money.

  42. Weston Davis says

    I just wanted to relate an experiance with a charter that works. My son is a sophomore at a University built STEM charter school. It is open to any applicant provided they have space and have consistently added space year over year.

    Students start earning accredited colledge credit in their 9th grade year and will graduate with 60 hours of core credits. This is entirely paid for with the current charter schema and the only catch is that you pay for any courses that the student fails. Luckily my son is smarter than your average bear and maintains a 4+ GPA.

    The teacher either have masters or are in the process of finishing their masters as this us a requirement to teach. Many of the STEM teachers are industry professional that are receuited to teach as they gain their masters and offer the students a real world perspective on the subjects they learn. As an example my sons computer technology instructor was a lead programer for NASA and worked on mars rover missions and at the beginning of his career, the sky lab.

    Charters are still in their infancy and just as any new way of doing something or new institution will need time to grow and work the kinks out. Our public institutions are now on the other extream after having had a century to work out the kinks have now become a too big to fail institution that lacks the agility to change as the needs of the students change. Add the fact that a century of existance has allowed policitcal operatives and agenda driven people to concentrate their efforfs to imprint their views on ideologically imature minds. I feel for teachers but times and needs are changing and parents are demanding freedom, choice, and rightfull direction for their tax dollars to be directed where they feel it will best help their child.

    • Taxpayer says

      Charter schools don’t work. It has been around for 19 years. Once they close down by a future legislature those favorite teachers of your son if qualified to Teach in a Public of private School can get hired. Their will be a few not qualified or not hired they can migrate out of state or go back to College to get the training to Teach. 19 years is long enough to say that Charter Schools had their day and must go away.

  43. Sam H says

    Stop teaching to a test! Start teaching real reading, writing and math. Bring back cursive and real history! The current system is very flawed and until they start focusing academics instead of athletics our students are doomed!
    Once a teacher reaches tenure a lot of them will become lazy. There should be no tenure.
    Our ranking in the world is lower and lower every year! The good teachers of yesteryear are all gone, discipline is lacking. Kids graduate from school with no understanding of reality and no self reliance, packing a box full of participation trophies onto college. Most come back from college only to live in mom and dad’s basement for the next 15 years because the education system has let them down!
    So don’t show me the minor differences between two systems just find a way to fix them. FYI – 80% of Phd students are from other countries!!!!

  44. ECONVET says

    I am a teacher. Public education is a multi-trillion dollar fraud being perpetrated against the American tax-payer. We are graduating functionally illiterate students. School districts are NOT in the business of educating young people; they are in the business of making it look like they are in the business of educating young people so local, state and federal governments will continue to send the money. Public education, at least at the secondary level, is a very expensive dog-and-pony show. And judging from the responses herein I am beginning to see why and how we got such a staggeringly functionally corrupt system.

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