End-of-Session Peril: Oppose Involuntary “Charterization” of Neighborhood Schools!

A proposed agreement between House and Senate negotiators on SB 2, the charter-expansion bill, contains one of the worst ideas of the 2013 legislative session.  It’s a legislative deal made to order for the army of lobbyists campaigning to turn public schools over to private operators who can’t be bothered with meeting state quality standards.

This provision in SB 2 would let a bare majority of your local school board decide to turn a large swath of the neighborhood schools in your district involuntarily into charter schools that are no longer subject to most of the safeguards in the Education Code.

Send your letter to your state senator and state representative NOW urging a NO vote on this latest version of SB 2. The House and Senate will be in session all three days of the Memorial Day weekend, and that’s when this issue will be decided.

SB 2 says a whole feeder pattern of schools from elementary through high school could be turned into charters regardless of the wishes of parents and teachers at those schools. In many smaller districts, that means the entire school system. In larger school districts, more than 15,000 students and their schools could be “charterized.” The House had stripped this language out of SB 2, but the Senate’s negotiating team led by Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) insisted on putting it back in the bill.

Under this new type of involuntary “charterization” of neighborhood schools, parents and teachers alike would lose their existing right to opt out of a charter campus. The legislation also would deprive students, teachers, and parents of other key safeguards in state law, including:

–class-size limits;
–disciplinary and anti-bullying rights of students and disciplinary authority of teachers under the Safe Schools Act (Subchapter A, Chapter 37, of the Texas Education Code);
–parental rights under the Education Code, including public-school choice and right of access to instructional materials;
–students’ rights to be taught by certified teachers;
–teachers’ rights to planning periods, contracts with due process, and other professional rights that help retain/recruit quality staff.

Eliminating these safeguards is not a school-improvement strategy! Experience shows that schools exempt from these safeguards attract less qualified teachers, have higher teacher and student attrition, and have lower academic achievement than schools covered by these quality standards.

SB 2 has many other bad features as well, including multiple provisions that escalate the number of charter schools the state can approve without meaningful limits and without first putting effective quality controls into place. Charter quality should come before charter quantity, but this bill gets these priorities exactly backwards.

Sweeping aside state quality standards is no way to improve Texas schools. Urge your state senator and state representative to vote NO on the conference report on SB 2!