Adding charter schools

There are currently 210 active charter schools, and state law limits the total number to 215. (Note that this refers to charter school networks as well, so those 210 schools translates to about 520 campuses.) There are about 56,000 students on waiting lists for charter schools in Texas. The Lege is doing the math.

House Public Education Committee Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands , said he believes some upward adjustment of the cap will pass this session.

“There’s a market for them,” Eissler said. “We’ve got charter schools that have long waiting lists, and it’s a very market-driven mode of education, which is promising.”


The TEA is charged with monitoring and intervention when any public school fails to meet expectations. But spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe has said more agency layoffs could come this summer, raising concerns about the agency’s ability to effectively monitor a new generation of charters.

“If a law passes to increase (the cap), then we do what we can to make it happen,” said Suzanne Marchman, another TEA representative.

Lindsay Gustafson, public affairs director for the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, said her organization is not unequivocally against lifting the cap but opposes the proposition at this time, given the state’s budget woes and TEA staff reductions.

“They’re already strapped, in looking at charters — oversight of charters and any time that they take to close charters is pretty significant,” Gustafson said. “It’s not an easy thing to do.”

I agree with that sentiment. Clearly, there’s a demand for more charter schools, and as I’ve said before, we should do what we can to encourage the best of them to proliferate. But there’s a lot of bad ones out there as well – the story notes that in 2010, 11.1 percent of charters received the “academically unacceptable” designation, compared with 1.4 percent of regular public school districts. The TEA has just finished laying off over 10% of its staff. How are they going to oversee these new charters, and the existing ones, under those conditions? As with everything else this session, the Lege’s reach far exceeds its grasp. If the Lege wants more charter schools, they should come up with a way to pay for proper oversight of them. I don’t think that’s asking too for too much.

UPDATE: Here’s an op-ed in today’s Chron by Chris Barbic and Joe Greenberg of YEP Prep advocating the use of Permanent School Fund monies for charter schools. I agree with giving charters access to state funds for facilities, but not the PSF. How they do that needs to be determined.

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