Charters: Common Sense Policies to Level the Playing Field

Here is a sample email to members of the House and Senate Public Education committees and a call script with phone numbers to support increased charter transparency and equity. 

Charter schools are hollowing out the public education system we need to serve everyone—and schools should not be profit centers.  We need to level the playing field when charters “compete” with public schools.  

 

 

Dear Representative,

Charter schools are an industry focused on profits.  You can see this in the number of uncertified teachers they employ so they can pay them less even than public school teachers earn.  You can see it in the cherry-picking of students to reduce costs of discipline and special ed.  You can see it in the capital expansions they fund with high-yield (junk) bonds—wastefully duplicating taxpayer-funded projects like Houston ISD’s recent $2B rebuild of many schools.

Charter schools are hollowing out the public education system we need to serve everyone—and schools should not be profit centers.  We need to level the playing field when charters “compete” with public schools.  Here are the bills I support, and why.  I hope you will vote for them.

Transparency and political speech

  • HB 570 requires charter school governing bodies to hold their public meetings in the same county where the school is located, broadcast them over the internet, and make archived copies available on the internet, same as public school districts must do. 
  • HB 2776 requires charter schools to publish an annual information report covering many subjects public districts make available:  rates of suspension, expulsion, attrition; access to fine arts classes, to phys ed activities, libraries, dual-credit coursework; admission criteria; teacher experience rates; number of wait-listed students by school and grade; and much more. 
  • HB 2406 prevents charter school organizations from spending public funds for political advertising.

Financial impact of charter schools on public districts

  • HB 528 will include charter school students in a district’s enrollment.  This will make recapture calculations more fair by reflecting ALL property taxes spent locally for education, before recapture is triggered.
  • A new charter school or expansion of an existing school represents a substantial redistribution of tax revenue from public schools to a private corporate group (non-profits are corporations). There should be oversight over these decisions, and TEA should not be allowed to rubber stamp them.  HB 2760 enhances rules for charter groups requesting expansions using amendments to existing charters, and a longer timeline with an impact study.  The current system requires minimal approval for these expansion amendments.
  • HB 139 will close the loophole that allows schools to be opened with merely an amendment.  Charters would have to provide 18 months’ notice to the affected school district and community of any new school. 

Equity in financial burdens carried by charters versus public schools

  • HB 127 will remove the funding advantage charters have in large urban school districts like Houston, providing them with the same per student funding as their local district, not a statewide average that may be higher. 
  • HB 2800 will close a loophole that allowed large charter groups to receive allotments of public funds as if they were smaller schools entitled to higher allotment.
  • HB 953 will close a loophole that allows charter schools to skip funding their full share of teacher retirement costs for teachers earning more than Texas statutory minimum salaries.  HISD doesn’t get that break.  

Cherry-picking students by charter schools

  • HB 43 will close a loophole that allows charters to keep out students with a “discipline problems.” Charters should not be allowed to cherry-pick the students they serve, leaving all the “discipline problems” to the public schools.
  • HB 2510 tightens the rules for charters to suspend students, requiring them to post and abide by rules over suspension, same as public school districts do; also limits suspensions to 3 days maximum. These are the sort of Code of Conduct definitions HISD must publish and abide by.

Very truly yours,

Sarah Terrell

Houston

77009

House Public Ed Committee Emails: dan.huberty@house.texas.gov, diego.bernal@house.texas.gov, Alma.Allen@house.texas.gov, harold.dutton@house.texas.gov, Mary.Gonzalez@house.texas.gov, james.talarico@house.texas.gov, steve.allison@house.texas.gov, Trent.Ashby@house.texas.gov, keith.bell@house.texas.gov, ken.king@house.texas.gov, morgan.meyer@house.texas.gov

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Call Script

NOTE. The sponsors listed are so that when you call these people you can thank them for sponsoring that bill.  You don’t need to mention the sponsors on any other calls, or what the bill is about.  Just give them the list.

 

Hi this is _________ and I’m calling to express my support for a number of bills in the House that will help to level the playing field for public schools as they try to “compete” with charter schools. There are 11 bills in the House, which is great!  Can I give you that list?

These are the bills I hope you will support:

(To increase transparency and limit political donations)

  • HB 570  (Giovanni Capriglione, Republican of Southlake a suburb of Dallas; he is not on an Ed committee)
  • HB 2776 (Steve Allison, Republican of San Antonio)
  • HB 2406  (Charlie Geren, Republican of Ft Worth; he is not on an education committee)

(To force TEA to consider the impact on public schools of new or expanded charter schools)

  • HB 528 (Harold Dutton, Dem of Houston)
  • HB 2760 (Steve Allison, Republican of San Antonio)
  • HB 139 (Mary Gonzalez, Dem of Clint, which is south of El Paso)

(To level the financial playing field, where charter schools have decided advantages over public schools)

  • HB 127 (Mary Gonzalez, Dem of Clint, which is south of El Paso)
  • HB 2800 (Gina Hinojosa, Dem of Austin, not on an ed committee)
  • HB 953 (Ken King, Republican of Canadian, in the Panhandle, represents rural districts)

(To restrain charters from cherry-picking the most easily-educated students)

  • HB 43  (Gina Hinojosa, Dem of Austin)
  • HB 2510 (Gina Hinojosa, Dem of Austin)

PHONE NUMBERS

House Education Committee (this is not all of them)

  • Dan Huberty  512 463 0520  R, Houston
  • Mary Gozalez  512 463 0613  D, outside El Paso
  • James Talarico 512 463 0670  D, Round Rock
  • Steve Allison 512 463 0686 R, San Antonio, was Strauss’ aide
  • Ken King  512 463 0736  R, Canadian (panhandle)
  • Gary Van Deaver 512 463 0692 R, New Boston (former teacher, principal, and school superintendent)
  • Diego Bernal 512 463 0532  D, San Antonio
  • Harold Dutton 512 463 0510 D Houston
  • Gina Hinojosa, to thank her for sponsoring 3 of these bills  512 463 0668

Senate Education Committee (this is not all of them)

  • Larry Taylor 512 463 0111  R, Friendswood
  • Kirk Watson  512 463 0114   D, Austin
  • Royce West  512 463 0123  D, Dallas

Find your state representative and state senator's phone numbers at 

 

 


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