The Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) has joined with 17 other education organizations in sending a letter urging Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath to place a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools across the state during the coronavirus pandemic.
A broad group of education organizations including ATPE emphasized the critical need to sustain state funding for public schools under House Bill (HB) 3 passed during the last legislative session, and pointed out that increasing charter school enrollment, which is funded 100% by the state, would place an additional and unnecessary burden on state funds that will be desperately needed to sustain public education during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
There are currently 94 charter expansion amendments on file with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), which could cost the state an additional $90 million per year if approved. Charter school enrollment is still well below the current maximum capacity approved by TEA of 558,728. If charter schools were to reach the maximum capacity allowed by TEA, the cost to the state would be estimated as an additional $250 million per year.
In asking Morath to deny or significantly limit the approval of charter expansion amendments in 2020, education organizations are requesting the commissioner consider the following:
- Charter schools should serve special needs students in at least the same proportion as the state average;
- special education and English language learner (ELL) students in charters should be served by appropriately certified educators;
- charter schools should show compelling need and public support for new campuses;
- charter saturation in a given district should not negatively impact the fiscal health of the district;
- the track record of charter expansion applicants should be successful;
- charters should not send Texas taxpayers’ money to an out-of-state charter management organization (CMO); and
- charter expansions that would open in 2020 should be denied in the absence of a compelling reason otherwise.
The authority to approve or deny charter expansions rests solely with the Texas commissioner of education. You can read the full text of the letter signed by 18 education organizations including ATPE here.