Letter from Texas AFT President Zeph Capo: The Myth of Charter School ‘Equity’

Text says, "Take Action. Stop the Charter School Power Grab."

Dear Friends of Public Education,

I encourage you to read an outstanding report released this week from the Network for Public Education—“Chartered for Profit: The Hidden World of Charter Schools Operated for Financial Gain.

The report outlines how supposed non-profit charters partner with corporations that exact high fees for management. Corporations also control curriculum procurement, facility leases, and other expenditures that result in massive amounts of taxpayer money going to these entities and into the pockets of CEOs, relatives of board members, and others associated with the charters. The report identifies several charter organizations in Texas that are “run for profit,” which include at least 14 campuses as well as a vast network of virtual charter schools operated by K12 Inc. and Connections Academy.

Even Texas charter schools without direct links to management corporations often use the same shady techniques to enrich a handful of individuals, and we saw the results when unscrupulous charter operators try to partner with school districts.

Why is this information crucial now? Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his charter-school allies are pushing a “Charter School Equity Act.” This legislation—which abuses the ideals of “equity”— is designed to open the floodgates to charter expansion and prime Texas for even more profiteering and scandal. Media reports show a continuous pattern with these charters misusing taxpayer money or sinking into outright corruption and fraud. (Remember IDEA schools’ multi-million-dollar private charter jets, NBA luxury boxes, and advertising campaigns for the Super Bowl?)

Therefore I ask that you take an active role in fighting back against this legislation. Senate Bill 28, scheduled for a hearing this week, needs to be shut down. The bill would:

  • Eliminate our elected State Board of Education’s authority to veto a bad charter application and limit the ability of our local elected officials to protect our neighborhoods.
  • Exempt charter schools from any municipal zoning laws in many towns and cities. That means charters can locate anywhere — even across the street from a neighborhood public school.
  • Take away virtually all public input on where new charter campuses will be located. No vote. No public meetings. And a resulting charter school run by an unelected board appointed by the charter organization.

Past legislation already has handed a profitable privilege to charters by giving them a funding advantage over public schools, allowing them to serve fewer special education students, allowing them to discriminate against students for minor disciplinary infractions, and letting them get away with unaccountable boards often operating in the shadows.

Friends, this, quite frankly, is an assault on democracy and an insult to taxpayers who want transparency and accountability for their hard-earned dollars. It’s time to stop charters from cashing in on our kids. If the public is taken completely out of the charter approval process, are charters really public schools after all?

You can learn more about the issues with charter schools and take action at texasaft.org/resources/privatization.

Zeph Capo signature

Zeph Capo

Texas AFT President