Do unto public schools as you would not do to charter schools

Infuriating, but hardly surprising.

In June, Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath embarked on the largest school takeover in recent history, firing the governing board and the superintendent of the Houston Independent School District after one of its more than 270 schools failed to meet state educational standards for seven consecutive years.

Though the state gave Houston’s Wheatley High School a passing score the last time it assigned ratings, Morath charged ahead, saying he had an obligation under the law to either close the campus or replace the board. He chose the latter.

Drastic intervention was required at Houston ISD not just because of chronic low performance, he said, but because of the state’s continued appointment of a conservator, a person who acts as a manager for troubled districts, to ensure academic improvements.

When it comes to charter school networks that don’t meet academic standards, however, Morath has been more generous.

Since taking office more than seven years ago, Morath has repeatedly given charters permission to expand, allowing them to serve thousands more students, even when they haven’t met academic performance requirements. On at least 17 occasions, Morath has waived expansion requirements for charter networks that had too many failing campuses to qualify, according to a ProPublica and Texas Tribune analysis of state records. The state’s top education official also has approved five other waivers in cases where the charter had a combination of failing schools and campuses that were not rated because they either only served high-risk populations or had students too young to be tested.

Only three such performance waivers had been granted prior to Morath, who declined numerous requests for comment. They had all come from his immediate predecessor, according to the Texas Education Agency.

One campus that opened because of a waiver from Morath is Eastex-Jensen Neighborhood School, which is just 6 miles north of Wheatley High School. Opened in 2019, Eastex didn’t receive grades for its first two years because the state paused all school ratings due to the adverse impacts of the pandemic. In 2022, the last time the state scored schools, Eastex received a 48 out of 100, which is considered failing under the state’s accountability system. The state, however, spared campuses that received low grades from being penalized for poor performance that year.

“The hypocrisy here seems overwhelming,” said Kevin Welner, an education policy professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. “This is the same education commissioner who justified taking over the entire Houston school district based largely on one school’s old academic ratings.”

There’s a lot more, so go read the rest. I don’t have the energy for a deep dive. It mostly doesn’t require one anyway, as we all know what the root cause is (Republican control of state government) and what the fix is (Democrats winning more elections). That’s what most of these situations boil down to. I don’t know what else to say.

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