Educators call for a ‘timeout’ on charter school expansion

January 23, 2019

Rob D’Amico, 512-627-1343

The Texas American Federation of Teachers today called on the state Legislature to enact a “timeout” on charter school expansion, urging lawmakers to pass a moratorium on any new charter schools granted by the state until several reforms are made in the charter system.

“While many are proclaiming private-school vouchers as dead in the water this legislative session—for good reason—it’s now time to turn our attention to charter schools, in which enrollment has doubled in the last seven years with a cost to the state of $3 billion annually,” said Louis Malfaro, Texas AFT president. “We’ve seen unbridled expansion of charter schools—particularly the networks, or chains—which are taking millions of dollars out of our true public schools while they multiply by the dozens each year in our major cities. The result is a segregated system of schools with one side—the charters—allowed to discriminate against high-needs kids, such as special education students and English Learners that the public schools are left to serve. Meanwhile charters are also getting more money per student from the state. The damage being done both to our neighborhood schools and our state coffers signals an immediate need for a timeout on charter school expansion.”

Malfaro listed several elements of the charter system needing immediate reform:

  • Stop incentivizing charter school growth with unequal funding. Charter schools on average receive $1,000 more per pupil than public schools, costing the state $882 million every two years. In some districts the disparity is even larger, such as Austin ISD, where charters get $1,700 more per pupil than the school district. Charter schools are a part of what is driving up local property taxes, with a shift of more of the cost of education to local school districts.
  • Don’t allow charters to cherry pick students or shed them because of discipline problems. Texas is the only state that allows charter schools to discriminate against students based on their disciplinary history, something true public schools are prohibited from doing.
  • Be realistic in the purpose of charters and where they fit in our public education system. Charter schools perform no better than public schools and often perform worse. In 2018 accountability ratings, twice as many charters got Ds and Fs (10.2%) as public schools (5.5%) and eight times as many charters didn’t meet standards at all (4% of charters vs. .5% of public schools).
  • Currently, there is little notice of new charter applications, and charters are allowed to plan for new campuses without consulting local school districts and analyzing the impacts the new campuses will have on district finances and operations.
  • Demand more transparency and democracy in charter schools. Currently, many charter chains operate like private corporations, and many have faced allegations of personal profit generated from other for-profit companies that share business dealings. Charters should be required to follow the same open record laws as true public schools and be more open to taxpayer scrutiny. Additionally, the state should examine the lack of democracy in governance, as charters are run by appointed boards.

“A timeout on charters will allow us to examine a host of issues with charters and how they are negatively impacting our neighborhood schools while also costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars more than true public schools,” Malfaro said.

Texas American Federation of Teachers represents teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.6-million-member American Federation of Teachers and AFL-CIO.