And…Court case invalidates bill giving charters property tax breaks on leases
Seven new charter applications have been approved by the commissioner of education and are up for final approval or veto by the elected State Board of Education next week. It’s important to remember that once a charter is approved and meets certain minimal TEA requirements, it can apply to TEA to open an unlimited number of new campuses anywhere in the state. Texas AFT will be there Tuesday to testify against the further expansion of unaccountable charter schools. One of our union’s priorities is stopping the expansion of charter schools in Texas. Why? They foster inequality, lack accountability, and gobble up $3.6 billion of funding each year that should go to our public education system. Profit drives their expansion; not a sincere dedication to educating kids.
A dual education system is unsustainable. And it must be addressed by the State Board of Education, the only elected oversight there is for charter schools in Texas.
Please help by writing to your SBOE member to say that more unaccountable charter schools are not welcome in Texas. We need to protect our neighborhood public schools from San Antonio to Houston, from the Rio Grande Valley to El Paso.
Charter Schools Lose at the Texas Supreme Court
Last week, the Texas Supreme Court in Odyssey 2020 Academy Inc. v. Galveston County Appraisal District ruled that a charter school could not claim a tax exemption for its leased property. The court said, “The Constitution does not authorize an exemption for leased property that is privately owned but deemed public by statute,” and “A public entity must actually own the property.” The court added, “if the Legislature wants to exempt a property owner who leases to a charter school, it can amend the Texas Constitution.”
During the regular legislative session, charter advocates barely passed a heavily amended HB 3610, mustering 65 votes of the 150-member Texas House and facing sharp bipartisan opposition in the House and Senate. The bill provides a property tax exemption for public school leases. Pro-public education advocates warned that the bill was unconstitutional, and even the bill’s fiscal note clearly warned that the bill needed a constitutional amendment (which needs two-thirds approval of all members of each house). With the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling declaring that these private-property charter leases need a constitutional amendment to effectuate an exemption from property taxes, it is clear that HB 3610 is expressly unconstitutional and cannot take effect.