Sam Duell is the Policy Director for Charter Schools at ExcelinEd.
According to a paper ExcelinEd released this week in collaboration with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texas Business Leadership Council and Texas Aspires, it has never been more difficult for a Texas charter application to be approved than it is today.
This is an odd conundrum because Texas is known nationally for its public charter schools. As the birthplace of KIPP, YES Prep, IDEA Public Schools and several high-quality, single-site charters, many Texas charter schools are models for success. (This is an especially appropriate observation in light of a 2017 study from CREDO, a research center at Stanford University, which demonstrates the average charter school student in Texas learns more than their traditional school peers in less time.)
The biggest problem with Texas charters is that there aren’t enough of them. According to the Texas Charter Schools Association, at least 130,000 students are waiting to get in to Texas charter schools.
So, if Texas charters serve students well and if there aren’t enough seats to meet the demands of Texas families, why is it so difficult for charter applicants?
Part of the answer relates to the history of charter school authorizing in Texas, which is addressed at length in the new paper, Time to Change Course: Reclaiming the Potential of Texas Public Charter Schools, A State Case Study.
There was a time in early Texas charter history when every application was approved and nearly 60 percent of those charters closed over the next ten to fifteen years. Authorizers and policymakers responded by adding strong accountability measures to ensure that the mistake would not be repeated.
At the same time, current rates of expansion indicate Texas public charter schools cannot expand quickly enough to meet parent demand. That’s a problem, too.
Time to Change Course recommends a set of actions for consideration that Texas could take to reclaim the potential of public charter schools:
By reclaiming the potential of public charters and by building and expanding on their success, we can realize the attainable goal of educational opportunity for every Texan.