Charter Schools: Expansion Bill Examined

Texas AFT opposed a bill in the House Public Education Committee Thursday morning that would allow wide-open expansion of charter schools in Texas. The proposed House committee substitute for the bill, SB 127 by Republican Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston, would be even more expansive than the Senate version. Under both versions, charter holders could self-authorize the creation of satellite campuses essentially without limit, based on merely acceptable performance ratings, not exemplary or recognized ratings. Apparently a new wrinkle in the House version is a provision allowing out-of-state charter operators, with no history of successful operation under the Texas accountability system, to expand into Texas at will.

Texas AFT pointed out that there’s already ample room for charter expansion in Texas—more, in fact, than the Texas Education Agency can supervise effectively. With the okay of the commissioner of education, existing holders of charters from the State Board of Education can create new campuses without limit. Local in-district charters can be created without limit.  University-based charters can be created without limit. And new SBOE-approved charters under a cap of 215 could be issued readily if only there were an efficient process for revoking low-quality charter operations and freeing up their slots for new applicants. Considering that the great majority of charter schools in Texas have been mediocre or low-performing academically, charter expansion should not occur before the development of more robust oversight capacity at TEA.