New SBOE rule seeks greater openness to review new charter campus applications

SBOE members review a new rule for review of charter expansion. (You can watch a broadcast of the SBOE meeting here.)

As new Texas State Board of Education members were sworn in today for their first meeting this year, SBOE member Ruben Cortez took a strong stand for public schools by moving to amend board operating rules to allow its School Initiatives Committee to review charter school expansion amendments, which is the predominant way new charter campuses are opened.

Currently, the appointed commissioner of education is the sole authorizer of new charter campuses. The commissioner approved 400 new charter campuses in the last six years alone. Cortez cited a letter from the Texas Association of School Administrators expressing concern over the rapid proliferation of charter campuses, which currently requires no public input or board oversight.

Cortez explained that he has looked for these amendments–really just an application submitted by charters to add campuses–on the TEA website, and was only able to examine these proposed new charter campus amendments after the commissioner has approved them.

Board Members Marisa Perez-Diaz and Georgina Perez agreed that more time is needed and that public input should be gathered. Perez said that without public input, rapid expansion is “hijacking community tax dollars.” Perez argued that giving the board this authority would give the public an opportunity to weigh in on whether a new charter campus is in the best interest of their community.

Several other board members agreed that providing notice of new charter amendments and gathering input from the public would be a valuable improvement to the process, and the board unanimously approved language giving the School Initiatives Committee the authority to hold hearings and gather input on new charter campuses.