If our recent deep freeze taught Texans anything, it’s that effective transparency and oversight is critical when it comes to essential common goods like electricity.
High-quality public education for all Texas school children is also an essential common good. Transparency and oversight of our public school districts is carried out by your local school board.
Unfortunately, transparency and oversight of charter schools is frequently relegated to investigative journalism like what uncovered IDEA Public School’s use of taxpayer dollars to fund private jets and box seats at the Alamodome for administrative staff among others.
Given this complicated history regarding inadequate public charter school transparency, it’s especially disappointing that members of the Texas Legislature have submitted bills (HB-3279 and SB-28) that would eliminate an integral barrier of entry for new charter school applications, the Texas State Board of Education.
Just this past year, the state board of education rejected three new charter applicants. One was a franchised charter company out of California that was planning on skimming 15 percent off the top of Texas public education dollars that they would bring back to California. Another applicant, wanting to open in a high-poverty area of Houston, wasn’t planning to provide a basic service like busing.
A new applicant wanting to go into San Marcos was claiming to have an innovative program that in fact was already offered by the local public school district. And they largely ignored the more difficult, but no less important, student demographic to serve.
Your elected state board of education representatives appropriately voted in a bipartisan manner to reject these applicants. And these same applicants had been previously approved by the Texas Education Agency and the Commissioner of Education.
The state board of education is important precisely because it’s elected by parents with children currently progressing through the education system. The voices of these parents go unheard when unelected bureaucrats are the ones making key decisions on how to spend taxpayer public education dollars, without your consent or input.
Since the 1990s when KIPP Public School opened in Houston, many charter schools in high-poverty areas have provided a great service for those Texas parents and their children. Unfortunately, too many prioritize profit over effective education and require the oversight of the elected state board of education.
And since charter schools are, on average, $1,000 per child more expensive than ordinary public school districts, having charters located where school districts are performing well is a redundant service and an unnecessary cost for Texas taxpayers.
When operated well and transparent, along with appropriate selection and oversight, public charter schools are an invaluable option for many Texas parents and school children. And the Texas State Board of Education is there to represent the interest of Texas parents, taxpayers and community members in the selection process of new charter applicants. Please contact your elected representatives in the Legislature and ask them to oppose HB-3279 and SB-28.
Let’s make sure our public education system works for all, not just a select few.