The Texas Charter Con

This week, the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) convened for their conference at the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort and Spa. The three-day conference, which included a casino night, appropriately used the hashtag, #TXCharterCon. Followers of our Hotline and our Twitter account have seen some of these outrageous charter cons, or swindles, perpetrated on the students and taxpayers of Texas. Some of charter schools’ greatest con jobs actually include the purchase of a resort hotel! Another monumental con was a $15 million lease of a private jet, while IDEA Charters were undergoing Texas Education Agency (TEA) investigation. IDEA Charters turned around and hired the TEA employee who was investigating them. 

In a presentation entitled “Creating A School Based Police Department,” charter schools learned how to enact the much cheaper though dangerous “School Guardian Plan” to authorize a school employee to be armed after having received only 16 hours of training. It is no surprise that charter schools are looking to cut corners when it comes to student security costs. According to TEA data, charter schools on average spend only $67.83 per pupil on security & monitoring services, whereas independent school districts spend $94.21 per pupil.

In a presentation entitled “Limiting Exposure in Special Education Cases,” two lawyers  representing charter schools explain how charters can avoid lawsuits and minimize settlements to parents for failure to properly educate special education students. On average, charter schools spend  $300+ less per pupil on students with disabilities than independent school districts. This is why charters have an interest in avoiding litigation by parents of underserved students. Underserving students while cashing in is what charters do. 

While there were several sessions at the conference focusing on mental health, yet another profitable charter trick is to spend meagerly on student wellbeing. Charters spend less than half as much per student on healthcare services as independent public schools, and significantly less on guidance counseling services and security and monitoring services. Skimping on student well-being to pocket the change is just another one in a long list of charter cheats. 

Charters do not have a tax base to charge property taxes and rely entirely on state funds. The state spends nearly $3.6 billion per year on charter schools, an amount that nearly mirrors the recapture of local dollars it takes from taxpayers and school districts. While recapture was originally intended to reallocate funds from property wealthy districts to property poor districts, the effect of rapid charter school growth has resulted in an amount equal to the entirety of recaptured local tax dollars going to charter profiteers, some of whom send our Texas tax dollars to their out-of-state affiliates. As a result, property poor districts are not allocated enough to properly fund their schools and property wealthy districts are also left underfunded. If you ever wonder why your property taxes keep going up but your local public school does not see additional resources, the #TXCharterCon is why.