Invited Senate Testimony on Charters

I was invited by Senator Royce West to give testimony on charter schools at the Texas Senate Committee on Education for SB2. You can see the full hearing here. My testimony begins at about 2:29. See Cloaking Inequity’s full thread on charters here.

Here is original text of my testimony:

First I am honored to sit before you today. I appreciate the opportunity to speak ON SB2


I am an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning at UT-Austin.

Worked for Houston ISD in Research and Accountability during the Rod Paige Superintendency.

I then obtained a Phd Educational Policy analysis at Stanford University.

I am

Former charter school instructor in California

Current charter school board member

My daughter attends a charter school

As us professors are apt to do, I would like to speak today on data and theory related to charters and SB2

Instead of offering rhethoric, my role as faculty member at UT-Austin is to address some specific facts from peer-reviewed statistical research.

The data that I will now present is the overall perspective on charters. It of course doesn’t not mean that there are not island of excellence in charters.

Probably the most well known statistical research on charters was conducted by Stanford’s CREDO. They found that 85% of charters across the nation perform no better than traditional public schools.

So here is your UT-Austin stats class quiz question for today:

What is 85% of 200?

Well 170 districts. Thus, if you applied the national research to Texas, with greater accountability from the SBOE and TEA you would have lots of wiggle room under the existing cap.

We do know that there are more low-performing charters in Texas than high-performing.

We do know for Latinos, of the 70 high schools in the state that are majority Latino and majority college ready, only 6 of them are charters. [For African Americans]

We do know, on average, African American leavers (attrition and dropout) are double and sometimes triple in charter schools compared to traditional urban public schools.

We do know charters are heterogeneous and are not created equal. You could think of the charters in Texas as three types— Corporate, Community and Inter-governmental. What is interesting about our most recent statistical analysis in a soon to be released study is that average Texas achievement data show that community-based charters outperform the corporate charters across the state.

Considering that in a recent radio interview Mike Feinburg has said that charters will not “circle the wagons” for low-performing charters and Mr. Torkelson said today that they shouldn’t “see the light of day in the next school year.” Due to the wide range of quality of charter schools, it is an important consideration for whether we should lift the cap or instead trim the fat?…


What are the implications for democracy of a politically appointed charter authorizing authority? What the implication of injecting politics into chartering decisions?

What are the implications of $1 school buildings? Empty schools are a district’s wiggle room, once they are gone, and enrollment growth increases communities will have to fund new buildings. My daughter calls it “stuck like chuck”

Also, how do we deal with schools that the state comes in closes? Why wouldn’t the state be motivated to close schools writ-large because they perceive charter schools as a “savings to the budget” because they derive their funding from many sources other than the state?

In Chicago for example, there are many empty schools because of school closures required by statute [and declining enrollment and mayoral direction]. Potentially by allowing a yet undefined under-utilization assessment to determine which buildings would be transferred for $1 to charters their is the potential to destabilize and deconstruct the flexibility in our public school system.

Also, what are the implications for democracy for 20-year charters that would essentially take local control out of chartering schools for a generation?

Finally, I think it’s important to ask a meta question— a philosophical question. What should parents actually be able to choose?? Are the right options on the table? Or in our endless search for inexpensive educational policy are important options such as hiring teachers that have more than 30 hours or five weeks of summer training off the table? 


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