Educators call for more oversight of charter-school expansions

Regional TEA Meetings Scheduled
Coalition comments on the proposed rules

Representatives of education stakeholders, along with school district leaders and parents, joined today at a Texas Education Agency (TEA) hearing on January 13 to raise concern on proposed rules that could allow the significant expansion of charter schools with little state oversight or consideration of the fiscal impact to the state or local public schools.

In the past decade, TEA has authorized more than 700 new campuses through charter amendments with little public input or transparency in TEA’s two-month approval process. The public is unable to obtain even basic information about where a new charter campus will locate or whom it seeks to serve. Public school districts, in contrast, provide numerous public meetings, opportunities for local input, and other transparency measures when opening a new campus.

The proposed rules could allow TEA to designate some charter schools as “high quality” even if some campuses are D-rated, even if they do not serve similar numbers of special needs children as neighboring schools, and even if they violate legal requirements such as hiring teachers who have college degrees or providing state-required test security measures for STAAR exams.

The proposed rules also could allow such “high quality” charter schools to expand with almost no state oversight. “The state would never allow a transportation contractor, for example, to abide by the rules of its choosing, locate roads where it pleases, and serve only the most profitable communities. We urge TEA to do no less for all children,” stated 17 education organizations in a joint public comment submitted to TEA.

The comments addressed how unfettered charter expansions can harm public education:

  • TEA should not call a charter school “high quality” if it is high-performing based on its exclusion of students with disabilities. Under federal law, TEA must ensure all public schools are identifying, enrolling, and serving special education students. One San Antonio charter school, for example, serves only 1.6 percent special education students – well below the state average of 9.6 percent.
  • Students who are harder to serve are underrepresented in Texas charter schools by a very large margin, because charter schools filter these students out, according to a new study by Dr. Michael Villarreal of the Urban Education Institute at UT-San Antonio.
  • The fiscal and educational impact to local schools is significant. When TEA lets a new charter campus open across from and draw from an existing public school district campus, fixed costs – with less funding – remain for the district, resulting in loss of services to children. TEA does not consider proximity to existing campuses when approving new charter school campuses, which leads to duplication, waste, and inefficiency.
  • The fiscal impact to the state is significant. TEA already has approved more than 557,000 seats at charter schools. This maximum approved enrollment capacity is far greater than levels estimated in the General Appropriations Act, would total more than $11 billion in state funds per biennium, and would consume more than 25 percent of state funds from the Foundation School Program.

The following education organizations endorsed the comments submitted to the Texas Education Agency and/or testified at the TEA hearing:

Texas Association of School Boards
Texas Association of School Administrators
Raise Your Hand Texas
Texas AFT
Texas State Teachers Association
Association of Texas Professional Educators
Texas Classroom Teachers Association
Texas School Alliance
Fast Growth Coalition
Texas Urban Council
IDRA
Center for Public Policy Priorities
Pastors for Texas Children
Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association
Texas Association of Rural Schools
Texas Association of Community Schools
Texas Association of Midsize Schools
Coalition for Education Funding