Those of you who are near my age will remember the television show Dragnet. Sgt. Joe Friday, in a clipped, monotone voice would try to cut through the fog of information by saying, “Just the facts, sir.”
I feel much the same way each legislative session when I hear politicians speak about removing the cap on charter schools to allow unlimited expansion. The refrain has always been that charter school competition will make public schools better. Without a doubt, there are some very good charter schools. They are meeting a need for some students that have fallen through the system in public schools. Traditional schools have had to step up our game to serve all students better than we did in the past. I believe most districts have done that.
Let’s look at few facts as provided by the Texas Sunset Advisory Board:
- The percentage of charter schools rated Academically Unacceptable is almost double the percentage found in traditional public schools (11.2 percent for charters and 5.9 percent for public schools).
- The percentage of charter school operators who fail the state’s financial accountability standards in 2012 was six times more than public school districts (13.1 percent to 2 percent)
- Charter schools represent 71 percent of the campuses facing state sanctions, yet their numbers comprise only 17 percent of the total public school campuses in Texas.
- More than 50 charter schools have been rated academically unacceptable for 3 plus years and one campus has been academically unacceptable for 7 years, percentages far higher than those seen in traditional public schools.
The debate continues in Austin about expanding the charter options, despite no research that shows they are doing a better job, as a rule, than most traditional schools and despite a very uneven playing field of rules and regulations. I am not advocating an end to the experiment with charter schools. However, I encourage you to let your legislators know that continued operation of a poor performing charter schools is a drain on a financially strapped system.