Tag Archives: veto

TEA gets federal funding to grow charters and approves one controversial charter chain’s expansion

Mike Morath

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath approved the controversial expansion of IDEA, one of the state’s largest charter school chains, to 12 new campuses in 2021.

The commissioner announced his decision last week despite 18 education organizations, including ATPE, calling for a moratorium on the expansion of taxpayer-funded charter school chains while the state faces a $4.6 billion budget deficit caused by the economic recession. This recession threatens the funding of existing public schools, which must contend with both the economic conditions and educating 5.4 million students during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The commissioner denied 15 of the 27 new campuses proposed by IDEA, but approved two new campuses in Odessa, two in La Joya, two in San Antonio, two in El Paso, two in Fort Worth, and two in Lake Houston. This will increase IDEA’s maximum enrollment by 15,000 students. Over the last four years, IDEA has expanded to 62 new campuses. Funded by Texas taxpayers, the charter chain has since doubled its budget, including spending on lavish executive salaries, private jets, and a luxury suite for the San Antonio Spurs.

Charter school chains differ from traditional public schools in the way they are funded and governed. While charter chains are run by private, unelected boards and are often tied to for-profit, out-of-state charter management organizations (CMO), they are funded almost entirely by state tax dollars. Independent school districts (ISD) are funded in part by the state and in part by local taxes. This means that charter chains cost the state more money per student than ISDs, to the tune of millions of dollars, depending on the size of the chain.

Under U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a longtime proponent of school privatization, the U.S. Department of Education has placed an increasing focus on diverting federal tax dollars to charter chains. On Friday, the department announced it had designated more than $131 million in federal funding to expand charter chains nationwide, $33 million of which will go to expanding charter chains in Texas. The largest tranche of this federal funding went to the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The department awarded more than $23 million to the TEA for charter expansions and $10 million to the Texas Public Finance Authority, which allows charter chains to obtain public financing through taxpayer-backed bonds.

ATPE and other education organizations have pointed out that it is irresponsible to pour scarce tax dollars into expanding these privately run business ventures while the state faces a $4.6 billion budget shortfall that could result in less state funding for local schools — potentially leading to layoffs or other negative consequences to the public education system.

In September, the State Board of Education (SBOE) vetoed three of the eight new charter school chains TEA proposed to establish in Texas. The elected SBOE has the authority to determine whether a new chain is allowed to open for businesses in Texas. However once a new chain is established, the unelected commissioner has sole discretion over future expansions. The Texas Legislature could make charter chains more accountable to voters and taxpayers by expanding the SBOE’s veto authority to charter chain expansions as well.

 

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 21, 2019

From Austin to Washington, D.C., here’s a look at the latest advocacy news from your ATPE Governmental Relations team:


Last week, ATPE State President Byron Hildebrand, Vice President Tonja Gray, Executive Director Shannon Holmes, Senior Lobbyist Monty Exter, and ATPE’s Washington-based lobbyist David Pore met with members of the Texas congressional delegation at the U.S. Capitol.

Discussions focused on public education priorities at the federal level, including funding and the repeal of Social Security offsets like the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). The group also visited with officials at the U.S. Department of Education.

For a full recap of the Washington trip, check out this blog post by Exter.


All bills passed by the Texas legislature are subject to the governor’s veto pen, and Sunday, June 16, 2019, marked the end of the period in which the governor may exercise this power. ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins reports that Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed three education bills that had been finally passed by the 86th Legislature when it adjourned sine die last month.

This year’s vetoed bills included House Bill (HB) 109 by Rep. Armando Martinez (D-Weslaco), which would have required charter schools to give students Memorial Day off as school districts are currently required to do, yet the bill exempted districts of innovation (DOI). Gov. Abbott explained in his veto message that the bill would have exempted up to 859 school districts, and suggested the legislature draft more targeted legislation in the future.

The governor also vetoed HB 455 by Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston), which would have required the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to develop a model policy on recess that encourages age-appropriate outdoor physical activities. Despite praising the bill’s good intentions, the governor called HB 455 “bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake.”

Additionally, Gov. Abbott vetoed HB 3511 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston), which would have created a “Commission on Texas Workforce of the Future.” The governor called the bill redundant and duplicative of work being done by the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative, which involves the Texas Workforce Commission, TEA, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB).

Incidentally, the Texas governor has “line-item” veto authority over the budget, and governors have often exercised this power to strike the funding from programs of which they disapprove. Gov. Abbott raised eyebrows this year by declining to veto any lines from the state budget, allowing all of the provisions of HB 1 to go into effect without opposition.

For a complete look at the education bills that passed this session, be sure to check out our 86th Legislative Session Highlights here on Teach the Vote penned by the ATPE staff lobbyists who worked on these and hundreds of other bills throughout the 140-day session.


 

U.S. House to debate ESEA reauthorization starting today, White House threatens veto

The US House of Representatives is scheduled to begin debate of H.R. 5, The Student Success Act, this afternoon. The Student Success Act, a Republican-backed bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), or No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), has moved quickly through the House process; the bill was introduced the first week in February and marked up in committee shortly thereafter. H.R. 5 is scheduled for debate today, tomorrow, and Friday by the full House of Representatives, with a final vote on the bill expected Friday.

House Democrats have expressed opposition to H.R. 5 and the expedited, partisan process through which they feel the bill has been ushered. Today, the White House threatened to veto the bill in its current form, calling the bill “a significant step backwards.”

More than 125 amendments were filed ahead of the three-day floor debate (although the House will likely debate far fewer amendments than were filed). Most of the amendments were filed by Democrats who were unable to get any amendments passed during the committee mark up, but several Republican and bipartisan amendments were filed as well. The filed amendments cover a variety of topics, including altering the current testing schedule, further expanding Title I portability, and defining requirements for state accountability plans.

The House is scheduled to begin debate this afternoon at 2 pm CST. Visit the House website to watch the debate live or view an archived video of the debate.