On January 13, 2020, representatives from numerous education organizations and school districts as well as parents testified at a TEA public hearing on the need for more oversight and transparency in the agency’s proposed rules and framework related to charter school expansion.
A representative for TASA and the Texas Association of School Boards testified, as well as representatives of Raise Your Hand Texas, Texas Urban Council, Texas School Alliance, the Fast Growth School Coalition, Texas State Teachers Association, Texas Classroom Teachers Association, Texas-AFT, and the Association of Texas Professional Educators.
Concerns expressed during the public testimony include:
- Running dual (charter school and traditional school district) competing systems is inefficient.
- The state must consider the negative financial impact to the Foundation School Program and traditional school districts before further charter expansions are allowed. (More consideration should be made to the proximity to other high-performing campuses, the students to be served, overlap of programs, etc.) The rapid expansion of charter schools is causing oversaturation.
- The rules governing charter school expansion do not require them to follow the same transparent processes, including public vetting, that traditional school districts must follow when they plan to open new campuses. One problem that results is that school districts encounter difficulty with facility planning and in asking voters to approve bonds for new, needed campuses when charters do not provide districts with information on specific locations of new charter campuses they plan to open. TEA must request more detailed information on the location of proposed charter expansions to give taxpayers adequate information on the impact to their communities.
- Expansions should be considered only with “all” students in mind and not just those who may attend the charter school. Students receiving special education and bilingual services, as well as English Language Learners, are often underserved in charter schools as compared to in traditional school districts.
- The proposed rules allow for charter schools to continue to exclude students based on disciplinary history, and the laxness of the proposed system and scoring process would not allow charters to adequately serve students with disabilities. (Many students receiving special education services also receive a high number of disciplinary actions, and thus they are systematically excluded from charter enrollment due to disciplinary history.)
- TEA’s proposed rules would allow charters that have a “D” rated campus to be considered “high performing.” That would be inconsistent with how traditional school districts with a D-rated campus fare under the accountability system. In some cases a traditional school district with a D-rated campus receives the same sanctions as those with an F-rated campus.
- Charter applicants should not receive additional points in TEA’s proposed framework in expansion determinations for simply following the law (e.g., filing of tax forms on time). Compliance with statute should be a requirement, not rewarded with “bonus” points toward the commissioner’s expansion determinations.
- There are no provisions for the inclusion of CTE in charter expansion approval in the proposed framework and rules.
- Questions were asked about the stakeholders involved in working with TEA to prepare the proposed charter school framework and corresponding rules (e.g., which, if any, traditional school districts or organizations representing school districts, board trustees, or their employees were included?).