The commissioner of education approved seven new charter applicants in June, and the State Board of Education last week had the opportunity to hear from each to determine whether to allow or veto each application. After these hearings, SBOE denied four of the seven applicants.
Despite evidence that public schools consistently outperform charter schools (even with charters’ funding advantage), state leaders intent on public school privatization continue to push for greater charter school expansion. This second school system already costs the state $3.6 billion each year, and that is money that belongs in public schools, not in the pockets of out-of-state charter operators. With little state oversight and no local voter accountability, charter school corruption is continuously exposed in scandal after scandal.
The most controversial applicant was California-based Rocketship Public Schools, which has been vetoed three previous times by the SBOE and has a history of financial and operational problems. The data on Rocketship operations — which would be contracted out to its California charter management organization — is bleak: Teacher attrition rates are as high as 44%, student attrition rates are as high as 34% per year, and student-to-teacher ratios are as high as 36:1.
Despite its poor track record, Rocketship’s charter application passed on an 8-7 vote, only after an unprecedented push from moneyed Fort Worth interests and reported last-minute lobbying from Gov. Greg Abbott and Commissioner of Education Mike Morath.
Many thanks go to SBOE members Georgina Perez, Ruben Cortez Jr., Rebecca Bell-Metereau, Matt Robinson, and Aicha Davis, who consistently stood up in the face of significant political pressure. These members spoke up for the interests of public schools and all their students and spoke out against the funding drain from rapidly expanding, low-quality charter chains.
We also thank Texas AFT members for your letters and calls to SBOE members to make sure the voices of public school educators were heard in this important discussion. Four vetoed charter applicants is a new record, and it would not have happened without your voice