Charter Schools: Dr. Soto, I am disappointed

In a recent San Antonio Express New article outgoing Texas SBOE member Michael Soto stated :

There’s pretty solid support for efforts to raise the bar academically on the board and throughout the state because these charter applications significantly raise the academic bar.

Dr. Soto, I am disappointed.

In response, Diane Ravitch stated on her blog (as quoted by SAEN online):

Charter schools would have a valued place in America education if they served the neediest children and recruited students of have dropped out, Ravitch wrote in a recent blog. But in the current context, they have been turned into a battering ram to compete with public schools and skim the ablest students,” she said. “Are we reverting to the dual system in American education that existed pre-1954? Will there be charter schools in gated communities to keep out the others? And charter schools to skim off the cream in poor communities? And impoverished public schools, overwhelmed by the students with the greatest needs?

As Professor Ed Fuller has already demonstrated, charter schools in Texas are creaming higher-achieving students across the state. My own research has found that they have triple the school leaver rates amongst African Americans. (I discussed here and here). As Ravitch alludes, charters are also often not very interested in serving special needs students.

Previous research on Great Hearts in Arizona has demonstrated their business model appears to segregate schools. (See here and here)

I recently posted data on the lack of college readiness in charter high schools compared to traditional public schools for African Americans and Latina/os in Texas.

As discussed on Cloaking Inequity earlier, the Stanford CREEDO study showed that 83% of charter schools across the entire nation don’t perform better than our traditional public schools. So where exactly has the bar been raised?

Dr. Soto, I am disappointed. Data should get in the way of ideology.

For Cloaking Inequity’s full thread of posts on Charters click here.


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  • Professor Vasquez Heilig: Please note the following post from Mr. Soto’s wife’s Facebooks page:
    Celina Pena
    Very exciting times, SA is well behind the charter trend and with great, high performing ones, many bad ones will close and many public schools will wake up!

    Don’t you see a problem with an SBOE board members wife posting something like this? Also, check out to get an idea of what a well-organized, well funded machine looks like.


  • Prof. Vasquez Heilig, as you know, I’ve long expressed my concern that Texas has no coherent strategy for how charter schools fit within the wider public school landscape. Until there is a useful strategy in place, the kind of structural inequities that you’ve identified across the system and on individual campuses will persist. For that reason, I applaud your efforts and even after I leave office next month I’ll continue to press for a more coherent, logical, and equitable charter school system in Texas and elsewhere. We very urgently need to develop better ways to close down the many failed charters already in existence. (I’d be very glad to share with you my recent testimony on charter schools before the House pubic education committee.) My evaluation of individual charter applications must rely on different information than the data that I use to critique the system overall. I ask: 1) Does this applicant offer an innovative curriculum, one that nearby public schools can and should learn from? 2) Does the applicant propose a financial and governance plan that doesn’t fleece the taxpayer and that’s open to public scrutiny? 3) Is this applicant the kind of entity that I’d trust with my own kids–do they pass the gut check? The applicants you’ve focused on during this round of the charter processes–Generation 17–fare far better in these three areas than many other applicants. If awarded a charter, will their presence in Texas do anything to fix the structural problems in our state’s public school system? Almost surely not. But I’d invite you to extend similar scrutiny to the many other applicants, some of whom might well cause immediate, local concern in addition to joining an already broken system.


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