April 1, 2022: New fed rules on charter grants would limit taxpayer money to for-profits; TEA change will fund districts suffering low attendance; Join our Text Mixers!
Publish Date: April 1, 2022 11:15 am Author: Texas AFT
Biden administration pushes new restrictions on charter-school access to federal grants
On March 10, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a spending bill that includes a proposal for stricter requirements for federal grants used for charter-school expansion.
One such change would affect the for-profit management companies that often run charter schools. By law, charter schools seeking federal grants must be run by nonprofits. Still, a common practice with charters is outsourcing such operations to nonprofits, which are eligible for funds. The new rules would significantly limit what services charters can contract with for-profit entities and still qualify for grants.
In Texas, state law does not require a local public hearing of how a new charter school will impact a given neighborhood’s public schools before it’s opened for enrollment—although districts can submit projected impacts to TEA about their budgets. To make matters worse, taxpayers aren’t notified about how additional local taxes will be spent in “recapture” funding due to charter school saturation. The new federal rules would require charters seeking grants to provide a detailed analysis of how creating a new campus would affect surrounding public schools—including an assessment showing there is “sufficient demand” for the new campus, such as data on overenrolled schools. It’s unclear how much these impact analyses will have on approving or denying grant applications.
State Board of Education Member Ruban Cortez has long questioned the enrollment and project goals of new charter applications. Keeping these factors in mind, the 2018 approval of three new charter schools would deal $42 million in losses to local public schools over five years, with the figure jumping to $164 million in a ten years if a charter enrolls at full capacity.
Texas AFT welcomes the stricter rules changes that at least will buffer the ongoing waste of taxpayer dollars to fund privatization efforts in education. However, note that the amount allocated for charter grants remained the same as the previous spending levels at $440 million. The proposed rules are open for public comment through April 13.
Texas AFT strongly encourages the administration to continue promoting pro-public education policy and demand further accountability from charter schools. The charter-school lobby will be working hard to try and kill these changes. You can add your voice supporting the proposals by signing a Network for Public Education petition.
TEA announces another round of “hold harmless” funding for districts with low attendance rates
Under the commissioner of education’s authority, TEA has issued a letter to school districts and open-enrollment charter schools (LEAs) eligible for a reduction in the required 75,600 minutes of operation. Many LEAs have experienced losses in average daily attendance (ADA) due to low attendance rates caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Because ADA is a major component in determining Foundation School Program (FSP) funds, a loss of ADA would normally result in a loss of FSP funds for affected LEAs and/or an increase in recapture obligations.
To mitigate these funding losses, the commissioner approved a reduction in the minimum required 75,600 minutes of operation for all LEAs during the first through fourth six-week attendance reporting periods of the 2021–2022 school year. The change will result in an adjustment that ensures stabilized percentage attendance rates comparable to a more typical school year, rather than the low percentage attendance rates caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. All LEAs will automatically be granted this one-time adjustment to operational minutes. No application or other action by LEAs is necessary.
Join other Texas AFT school employees and allied parents for a weekly Text Mixer to win the May 24 runoffs!
Our kids need passionate, permanent teachers in their classrooms. Let’s do it by electing educators committed to creating reasonable workloads, stopping the backslide in wages, and more!
Just bring your favorite drink and a charged phone or laptop and join us on Zoom. Whoever sends the most texts by May 24 will receive a $100 gift card! Register here.
Thursday is deadline to register for May 7 elections
Many communities across Texas will hold local elections—including for school boards—on May 7. But all registered Texans will have a choice to vote on two proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution that adjust property tax homestead exemptions.
Thursday, April 7, is the last day to register to vote for the May 7 elections. Early voting runs from Monday, April 25, to Tuesday, May 3.
From bathroom bills to sports bans and baseless investigations, transgender people in Texas face attacks from elected officials who really should know better. Discrimination is not a Texas value. Let’s show the world that transgender people are welcome in Texas by joining Texas AFT allies for a rally in observance of Transgender Day of Visibility on the south steps of the Texas Capitol on Saturday, April 2.
New ‘Mindfulness Essentials’ series
The Bridges Institute is returning with our Mindfulness Essentials series in 2022! They began on March 23, and we will be offering six sessions every Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. CPE credit will be issued for each hour attended.
Participants will also receive a link to join weekly, free 15-minute guided practices on Zoom—Tuesdays at 7:15 a.m. and Wednesdays at 12 p.m.