Texas public schools educate 5 million students.
Texas doesn’t need more charters. It needs more high-performing charter schools. Acting swiftly to close failing charter schools protects Texas students and families while creating more opportunities for high-performing charter schools to serve students.
Why Can’t TEA Close Failing Charter Schools?
It takes too long to revoke a charter for poor performance, putting students and taxpayers at risk. TEA does not act to revoke a charter until after four years of Academically Unacceptable performance. Because a charter is considered to be a property right, charter revocations typically take 2-3 additional years, during which time students are left in a poor performing school. In one case, TEA has been working to revoke a charter for 12 years!
TEA lacks the authority to suspend charter operations for imminent insolvency before a school term begins. If a charter runs out of funds during the academic year, it puts students and families at risk of disruption, displacement and loss of academic progress.
TEA lacks clear standards for charter renewal. As a result, poorly-run charter schools are often allowed to continue to operate despite chronic performance problems.
TEA lacks the authority to address poor governance by charter schools. TEA does not have the authority to reconstitute a charter school board that is failing to carry out its obligations, or to address nepotism or conflicts of interest.
According to the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission:
- The percentage of charter school campuses rated Academically Unacceptable was nearly twice that of traditional public schools (11.2% vs. 5.9%).
- Charter schools educate 3% of the student population in Texas, but account for 25% of the TEA’s workload.
- The percentage of charter school operators failing state financial accountability standards in 2012 was more than six times that of public school districts (13.1% vs. 2%).
- Charter school campuses represent 71% of the campuses with sanctions but only 17% of total public school campuses.
- Out of a total of 482 charter school campuses for 2010-2011, 54 were rated Academically Unacceptable. According to the Sunset Commission, many charters have been rated Academically Unacceptable for multiple, non-consecutive years, with 53 charters rated Academically Unacceptable for 3 or more years and one charter campus rated Academically Unacceptable for a total of 7 years.
Here’s what the Texas legislature can do to keep public schools strong:
- Strengthen charter schools and charter school enforcement by adopting key recommendations of Texas Sunset Advisory Commission staff:
- Require the Commissioner to revoke charters for failure to meet fiscal or accountability standards for three years in a row;
- Give the Commissioner authority to suspend operations and revoke charter if the school is about to become insolvent;
- Strengthen the charter renewal process so that Commissioner has clear authority to not renew a charter for accountability, fiscal, governance or other failure to comply with terms of charter; and
- Strengthen charter schools governance by authorizing the Commissioner to reconstitute charter boards, applying nepotism and conflict of interest standards.
- Issue a five-year provisional license to new charter applicants so that those that fail to perform adequately can be shut down without lengthy lawsuits.
- Maintain existing TEA standards that allow high-performing charters to open new campuses without obtaining a new charter (referred to as “replication”).
- Oppose significant expansion of the current cap on the number of charters until significant progress is made in revoking poor performing charters.