AFP Testifies on SB 2: Lifting the cap on charters

February 28, 2013

Americans for Prosperity-Texas enthusiastically supports SB 2 by Chairman Dan Patrick.

In Texas today, we have 315,000 students in over 500 failing schools.  Kids’ futures ride on one five-digit code which they have no control over:  their zip code.

Public schools assign kids to schools based on their zip codes.  We believe these students should have choices.  Charter schools provide choices.  Charter schools are public schools and have around 150,000 students enrolled.

Unfortunately, there are over 100,000 students on charter school waiting lists in Texas.  More would likely sign up but know that they have little chance of getting into a charter school.

This is simply unacceptable.

Current law caps the number of open-enrollment charter schools at 215.  The cap deters innovation and creation of new charter schools.  We need to lift the cap on charter schools to provide more choices for parents.  SB 2 provides for that.

Current law also doesn’t provide a mechanism to rapidly close poor performing charter schools (or other public schools.)  SB 2 provides a mechanism for closing bad charter schools.

The legislation also provide a mechanism for a local school district to convert to a home-rule charter school by majority vote of the local school board.

One of the most significant aspects of SB 2 is to direct school districts to rent unused schools to charter schools.  These are facilities which taxpayers both have paid for and are still paying for.  (According to the Texas Bond Review Board, Texas school districts are an alarming $107 billion in debt, primarily for facilities.)

This provision makes good sense.  However, you may be surprised to hear that school district representatives were adamantly opposed to providing unused facilities to charter schools.  These edu-crats seem to think those facilities belong to them.  Public facilities actually belong to the public who pays for them.

Today, charter schools get 90 cents for every dollar public schools get per pupil.  And they get no facilities funding.

SB 2 provides for limited facilities funding but the key is to utilize mothballed public schools.  We cannot let public school edu-crats continue to “just say no” and try to keep charter schools from providing education to parents who want that choice.

SB 2 also provides for a Charter School Authorizing Authority to both facilitate approving, monitoring and revoking charters.  The composition would be 4 members appointed by the governor, one by the lieutenant governor, one by the chair of the State Board of Education and one appointed by the commissioner.  They would serve staggered 4-year terms.

Here are the highlights of SB 2:

  • lifts the cap on charter schools
  • the parent trigger provides an opportunity for schools to convert to home rule charter schools
  • underutilized or unused schools would be available for charter schools; and
  • limited funding would be provided to charter schools for facilities.
Like this post? Chip in $5 to AFP