SBOE lets charters move forward, despite testimony on harmful impacts to local schools

 

The Texas State Board of Education today took no action on four new charter schools applicants, despite hearing about the detrimental impacts that three of the new charters would have on Houston and San Antonio ISDs. At today’s meeting, the Board could have vetoed the approval for the charters already given by Commissioner of Education Mike Morath.

The Board did have a lengthy discussion and heard from representatives of the charters–Reve Preparatory and Bloom Academy in Houston, and Promesa Academy in San Antonio. (The fourth is Elementary School for Education Innovation, which bills itself as “the first charter school in the State of Texas tailor made for children with Dyslexia, other language based learning differences, and ADHD.”)

Several Board members expressed how impressed they were with the promises made by the representatives for creating quality schools. But the majority of the Board members–who have long been favorable to charter expansion–didn’t respond to key concerns about the school raised by some of their peers and Texas AFT.

Board Member Ruben Cortez of Brownsville had significant concerns about the three applicants–who are funded by Building Excellent Schools, Inc. (BES), and out-of-state charter operator connected to the Walton Foundation, which promotes privatization of public schools through charter-school expansion. Read the June 5 and June 14 Hotlines for a more detailed look at the charters and their connections. Cortez noted that only half of BES schools around the country perform above standard, the Texas applicants do not have experience opening or operating a new school, none demonstrated a strong need or community support for their schools, and the charters had no budget for libraries or librarians, counselors or security.

Cortez added that he was concerned that the charters will serve lower percentages of struggling students, students with special needs, at-risk students, and English Learner students than neighboring public schools. Most important, Cortez said, was the idea that we are using state dollars inefficiently by opening a new facility and hiring new staff for a new campus when there are already many local neighborhood schools located nearby that meet the state standard. These two new Houston schools will increase the local taxpayer dollars that Houston ISD must pay to the state through recapture, he said.

Thanks to the 500-plus of you who wrote an online letter to Board members raising these same objections. We’ll keep fighting needless charter expansion at every level. On the BES schools, only Cortez and Board member Georgina Perez of El Paso voted against the motion to take no action–in other words, they were for opening a discussion for a vote on vetoing the applications.

In other action, the Board unanimously approved the new name for the Mexican-American history course–“Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies.”  Naming the course proved to be more contentious than imagined after one Board member objected to “hyphenated Americanism” with the term “Mexican-American” and proposed the name ““Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent.” That prompted widespread protests from Mexican-American activists, which then led to the final name, sans hyphen.