Do I believe all charters are doing spurious things? Of course not. But, we do know that some charters avoid special education and ELL students. But, we do know that some charters are segregated as a function of their business plan and seek required donations from their families. But, we do know that some charters are charging 100s of thousands in fees for disciplinary violations. But, we do know that charters have asked in the courts to be considered private organizations even though they take public money. (For the research and evidence, see the full Cloaking Inequity thread on charters here) These are behaviors that would not be allowed or tolerated in our traditional public schools. Are these just cases of bad juevos?
We as a society are still defining how charters will be a democratic form of education— growing pains you could say— but charters could be an innovative solution to longstanding inequality in the US educational system IF we get it right. Clearly, charter schools are heterogenous. I serve on the board of the UT-Austin charter school and I have been 100% pleased with the school. However, it is clear that there are charters that are taking advantage of the public’s trust in them to do the right thing.
Nevertheless, one of my primary criticisms of charters is that the CREDO study statistically demonstrated that only 15% of them do better than traditional public schools in their neighborhood. That means that 85% are not an improvement over what we already have. See the Stanford CREDO study here. So what are we doing about this? We are closing traditional public schools and “turning them around” (more on this later here at CI) but it typically takes gross financial malfeasance or failure for a charter to close in Texas.
Notably, The Sunset Advisory Commission recently made recommendations to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for closing charters. TASB summed up Sunset Commission’s recommendation this way:
Replace charter renewals with performance contracts. The staff report recommended that revocation of a charter school license be easier to execute if a charter’s performance is so poor, or performance so egregious, that a charter school must be shut down during an authorized term. The commissioner of education should be authorized to suspend operations of an insoluble charter, and the state should revoke any charter that fails to meet academic or fiscal standards for three years in a row. With regard to charters, sunset staff also suggested — and the commission agreed – that TEA have more flexibility in sanctions, more clarity in nepotism rules and the ability for the agency to reconstitute a governing board.
Does Tejas have the juevos to close charter schools en masse across the state that underperform? How about charters that avoid ELL and Special Education students? How about charters that somehow cream the best students from neighborhoods even though they are “open enrollment”?
Actually, we are having the opposite conversation that goes something like this: Why don’t we lift or raise the charter school caps?