New charter-school applicants to be evaluated

The Texas Education Agency’s timeline for screening applicants to establish new charter school systems was announced at the close of today’s State Board of Education meeting. TEA staff will interview six applicants on May 21-22; SBOE members also may participate in the questioning. The commissioner of education then is expected to make his approval recommendations by May 31, subject to case-by-case veto by the 15-member SBOE on June 15. As in past approval cycles, Texas AFT will monitor the application process closely.

It should be noted, however, that much charter expansion in Texas now occurs through processes controlled by the commissioner of education that are not subject to SBOE review. For one thing, the commissioner has full authority to allow a charter entity to add new campuses under its existing charter. The commissioner also has the power to grant extra funding and a temporary exemption from state accountability sanctions as incentives to school districts to contract out the operation of campuses to a charter entity. SBOE members at this week’s meeting expressed their dissatisfaction with this incentive scheme, questioning the quality and fidelity to state standards of the charter entities that win control of campuses by this route.