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Texas Charter Schools: Don’t Believe the Boasting and Hype

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William J. Gumbert has prepared statistical analyses of charter performance in Texas, based on state data.

Charters boast of their “success,” but the reality is far different from their claims. They don’t enroll similar demographics, their attrition rate is staggering, and their “wait lists” are unverified.

Their claims are a marketing tool.

They are not better than public schools.

They undermine and disrupt communities without producing better results.

Yet Texas is plunging headlong into this strategy that creates a dual system but benefits few students.

 

 

Texas Charter Schools – Perception May Not Be Reality

Part 5: The State’s Efforts to “Privatize” Public Education in Local Communities is “Simply Indefensible”

By: William J. Gumbert

If you are a parent residing in an urban or suburban area of Texas, it is likely that you have received promotional materials recruiting your child to enroll at a privately operated, charter school (“charters”). Charters are taxpayer funded, private organizations that the State approves to independently operate schools in community-based school districts. Despite it being your students, schools, tax dollars and communities, the State has unilaterally decided that a “dual education system”, consisting of locally governed, community-based school districts and State approved, privately governed charters, is best for local communities. The State has also conveniently and unilaterally decided to share the public education funding of local communities with privately governed charters.

To conclude this series on Texas charter schools, Part 5 uses the lyrics of Robert Palmer’s hit song “Simply Irresistible” to demonstrate that the State’s politically driven and orchestrated efforts to “privatize” public education in local communities is “Simply Indefensible”. Since the song was a hit in 1988, feel free to click on the YouTube video of the “Donnie and Marie Show” below to remember the vibe.

Screen Shot 2019-09-03 at 10.26.40 PM

“How Can It Be Permissible”:

Without the approval of taxpayers and local communities: State approved charters:

  • Transfer the control and governance of public schools from local communities to privately-operated charters;
  • Divert funding from community-based school districts to privately-operated charters. The State has already provided charters with over $22.5 billion of taxpayer funding;
  • Increase the debt burden of taxpayers as charters are free to incur long-term bond debt without taxpayer approval;
  • Increase the segregation of students attending public schools in certain communities; and
  • Reduce the quality of schools in many community-based school districts as 20.4% of all charter campuses are rated as “low performing” (rated equivalent of “D” or “F”) by the State’s 2018 Academic Accountability Ratings.

    “She Compromise My Principle – Yeah, Yeah”:

    Every community has a fundamental responsibility to provide a quality public education that equally serves the unique needs of every student. As public servants, community-based school districts embrace this responsibility as all students are welcome and no student is turned away. If there is not room, community-based school districts hire more teachers and make room. In comparison, the State’s deliberate intervention in local communities allows privately-operated charters to:

    • Serve a limited number of students and NOT enroll all students;
    • Recruit the targeted students and families they desire to serve;
    • Deny enrollment to students with “discipline histories”;
    • ▪ Serve a lower percentage of “students with disabilities”;
    • Serve a lower percentage of students “at risk” of dropping out; and
    • Disrupt the education of over 12,800 “economically-disadvantaged” students due to charter closures in the last 5-years.

    “That Kind of Love is Mythical”:

    The promotion of charters is primarily coordinated by charter advocacy organizations that are intended to support and grow the charter school movement. Although not all-inclusive, these organizations train charter administrators, teachers and parents to be advocates, they assist organizations to start new charters, and they coordinate the political strategy to secure favorable support from the Legislature. But it is not publicized that these advocacy organizations are funded by private donors and fueled by privately funded “public policy” organizations that desire to “privatize” public education across Texas.

    To demonstrate parent demand and to garner political support, charter advocacy organizations have notoriously publicized a “wait list” of students. But charters do not publicize the alarming 33.8% attrition rate of students in grades 7-12 that decided to transfer to another Texas public school to start year 2017/18. Charters also do not publicize that the desires of families on “wait lists” are a lower priority than the desire of charters to expand in other regions of the State. By charters expanding in other regions, without expanding current schools to serve students on “wait lists”, charters are choosing to have families “stuck” on the wait list”. In addition, charters strategically attempt to maintain a “wait list” to ensure that their taxpayer funding is preserved as existing students transfer to community-based school districts or another Texas public school in the future.

    In Texas, the promoted (unverified) “wait list” is 141,000 students. However, taking a deeper dive, a more realistic estimate is closer to 75,000 students or an amount that is very similar to the 73,713 disciplinary students that are intentionally denied service by charters. This estimate was derived from certain enrollment statistics in a study funded by the KLE Foundation entitled: “An Analysis of Austin area Charter School Waitlists and Enrollment”. It is important to note that the KLE Foundation is also funding the expansion of charters in Austin.

    “She’s Anything But Typical”:

    In comparison to community-based school districts, charters serve the unique needs of students by:

    • Employing teachers with lower experience;
    • Deploying higher class sizes;
    • ▪ Having higher teacher turnover
    • Spending less on “student instruction”;
    • Offering fewer co/extra-curricular activities;
    • ▪ Having limited career and technical training; and
    • Closing 108 charters

    .

    “She’s a Craze You’d Endorse, She’s a Powerful Force”:

  • The charter movement is coordinated by “public policy” and “education reform” organizations that circumvent the voice of local taxpayers by strategically controlling our elected officials at the State and Federal levels. In politics, money is power and the rich and powerful support the charter school movement. As a result, many elected officials are politically motivated to endorse and support the “charter craze”. The following quote from the Texas Charter Schools Association, an advocacy organization to support and expand charters, provides an indication of the movement’s focus on political patronage:

    “Generally speaking, we have a broad enough bipartisan coalition in the House and Senate that largely will prevent anything existential happening to charters” – CEO of TCSA

    “You’re Obliged to Conform, When There’s No Other Course”:

    It is interesting that the Legislature continues to increase the transparency requirements of community-based school districts to enhance the involvement of taxpayers, but at the same time, the State forces charters upon taxpayers by unilaterally controlling the expansion and taxpayer funding of charters. In this regard, taxpayers do not receive public notice of the charters that the State approves to operate in local communities. The State does not notify taxpayers of the public funding it provides to charters and the State has ensured that taxpayers cannot prohibit or limit the bond debt incurred by charters to finance the construction of new charter schools in local communities (charters are granted the ability to incur bond debt without voter approval). Lastly, with charters having “privately appointed boards”, the State has also ensured that taxpayers cannot democratically elect the governing boards of charters and in fact, the State does not even require charters to meet in the communities they serve.

    “She Used to Look Good to Me, But Now I Find Her”:

    The original purpose of charters was to improve the educational opportunities of “economically-disadvantaged” students in urban areas and to develop and share instructional innovations to enhance the education of all students. However, the charter school movement has evolved into an aggressive, strategic and “non-cooperative” movement that is coordinated by “special interests” to “privatize” and “control” the public education system in local communities. Since charters have introduced “private business practices” into public education, the charter movement could be characterized as a “hostile takeover” of public schools and the tax dollars of Texas communities.

    “Simply Indefensible” … “There’s No Tellin Where the Money Went”:

    The charter facts are “irrefutable”;

    Charter expenditures are “inscrutable”;

    Special interests have made charters politically “irresistible”; and

    By the State providing privately governed charters with taxpayer funding, “there’s no tellin where the money went”.

    With the education of children and taxpayer funding at stake, the State’s deliberate and politically-motivated actions to “privatize” public education in local communities is:

    DISCLOSURES: The author is a voluntary advocate for public education and this material solely reflects the opinions of the author. The author has not been compensated in any manner for the preparation of this material. The material is based upon various sources, including but not limited to, the Texas Education Agency, Txschools.org; Texas Academic Performance Reports, tpeir-Texas Education Reports, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, KXAN and other publicly available information. While the author believes these sources to be reliable, the author has not independently verified the information. All readers are encouraged to complete their own review of the charter school movement in Texas, including the material referenced herein and make their own independent conclusions.

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