Charter school expansion

Publicly funded charter schools were originally conceived as laboratories for innovation and improvement of educational practices. Texas AFT supported the state’s original experiment with charter schools in 1995 on that basis. But the sad reality is that so-called “open enrollment” charter schools, with a handful of exemplary exceptions, have proven generally inferior academically to traditional neighborhood schools, even though the charter operators are allowed to exclude students with discipline problems and find various other ways to filter out students they don’t want (e.g., by not offering adequate services for students with disabilities or for English Language Learners, by not offering free or reduced-price lunches, or by not providing transportation). Yet in 2017 the legislature favored charter schools with an unprecedented funding entitlement for facilities, without first addressing long-neglected facilities needs of school districts. 

Their governance and financial accountability to taxpayers also leave much to be desired. Yet there continues to be strong pressure from charter boosters for the proliferation of charter schools, including inferior online “virtual” charters and corporate charter chains, with little regard for educational quality or accountability. Recent legislation has done too little to improve charter quality while encouraging charter proliferation as a vehicle to privatize the operation of public schools.

Recent legislation in fact has moved in the opposite direction, giving local school districts multiple options and incentives to obtain charter-style exemption from state quality standards and safeguards. These options and incentives jeopardize state class-size limits, teachers’ statutory contract protections, due-process guarantees for students, parents, and employees in the enforcement of student discipline, and many other hard-won quality standards in state law.

Action Needed

Block charter expansion, while we strengthen quality standards and safeguards for state-authorized charter schools and virtual (distance-learning) schools. Require charter schools to operate on a level playing field of state quality standards, governance requirements, and academic and financial accountability with the traditional public schools.

Also roll back recent legislation that authorizes school districts to convert some or all of their campuses to the equivalent of charter schools and that thereby enables them to nullify state Education Code safeguards for teachers, students, and parents. And repeal the 2017 legislation that creates financial incentives and accountability exemptions to induce school districts to invite private charter entities to operate individual campuses.