Charter school ‘timeout’ proposal sparks debate in Texas

Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Jan. 23 Texas American Federation of Teachers called on state lawmakers to put a moratorium on any new charter schools in Texas until reforms are made in the charter system. 

Ray McMurrey from Texas American Federation of Teachers (TAFT) and Starlee Coleman from Texas Charter School Association (TCSA) debated the merits of the proposal Sunday on the State of Texas politics program. 

McMurrey said TAFT is not asking to ban charter schools, rather take a step back to look at the impact of charter schools. “We believe that charter schools are hurting public schools and that is evident through several factors,” McMurrey said.

Coleman said that a moratorium on charter schools would hurt students and parents in Texas.

“There are 140-thousand kids on charter school waiting lists across the state right now,” Coleman said. What they’re asking for is to look those parents in the eye and say no, you can’t put your kid in a school that you think is going to be a better fit for them.”

A TAFT news release listed reasons for the moratorium proposal, including unequal funding, cherry-picking students, and a lack of democracy and transparency. 

McMurrey said six percent of Texas students attend charter schools, but those schools receive 17 percent of this year’s state funding budget. “That is almost $2,000 a head per kid, we’re talking $50,000 per classroom,” he said. 

Coleman said that while charter schools do get more money from the state, they end up with less overall because they cannot tap into local property taxes. “Charter schools don’t get any of that money,” Coleman said.

She also disputed the idea that charter schools are hurting traditional public schools. “That’s hardly a threat to our district schools, they have 94 percent of the children and 94 percent of the money,” Coleman said. 

McMurrey criticized what he called a lack of democracy in the charter school system. 

“It’s not public, there’s no democratically elected school board governing these operations,” McMurrey said. “And they’re less democratically represented, they’re less demographically represented… the demographics don’t reflect the community.” 

Coleman immediately jumped to defend the charter school system. “There is nothing more democratic than a charter school setting where parents have to actively choose to put their children in that type of environment,” she said.

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