A parent might wonder why should I consider sending my child to a charter school? A teacher may ask why would I choose to work at a charter school? Any taxpayer may want to know why there is a need for charter schools when we already have district schools? Reasonable questions deserve straight answers.
I will address these questions in a series of blogs. My perspective is one of a lifelong educator who is currently a board member of a charter school.
Charter Schools Are Public Schools
The first thing to be perfectly clear about is that charter schools are public schools. Charter schools receive state funding, not local taxpayer dollars. To become a charter school in Texas you must apply through the Texas Education Agency and then be approved by the Texas State Board of Education.
The Truth About Texas Charter Schools
Research for this blog took me to the web site of the Texas Charter Schools Association. What follows is a few key facts from an excellent document, “The Truth about Texas Charter Schools,” which can be found at Truth-About-Texas-Charters-05132019.pdf (txcharterschools.org). The key facts quoted are underlined and my comments follow them.
Public Charter Schools Cannot Discriminate
“Public charter schools must take all students and are legally prohibited from selecting students based on academic ability or other preferences.” Public charter schools cannot discriminate in their admission policies based on sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, disability, academic, artistic, or athletic ability, or the district the child would otherwise attend. If a child lives within the geographic boundary approved in its state charter, he or she is welcomed subject to open seats. If too many students apply, a random lottery must be held to fill seats. Access to charter schools is open to the community.
Charter Schools Often Outperform Their ISD Counterparts
“Public charter schools enroll a higher percentage of students from historically underserved families.” Not only do minority and underserved student populations have access to charter schools, but statewide test scores also demonstrate they outperform their Independent School District peers in every single subject. In addition to higher academic achievement, a higher percentage of charter school students go on to college. Improved student learning and increased college opportunities are meaningful outcomes to both charter school parents and students.
“Like traditional ISD leaders, public charter school leaders hire talented and passionate teachers who drive student achievement and create positive school culture.” The advantage charter schools may have in teacher recruitment is found in flexibly offering a wider variety of subjects and innovative teaching methods. Charter schoolteachers are required to prepare students to meet Texas school standards for math, English, history and science even as their curriculum, approaches and culture differ from traditional Independent School Districts. In short, charter students are still expected to master fundamental subjects in accordance with Texas standards.
“Texas public charter schools are subject to the strictest accountability laws in the country.” Public charter schools in Texas are rated on the exact same academic accountability system and the very same financial accountability system as traditional ISDs. Poor ratings in three consecutive years can lead to automatic closure and a charter being revoked. Failure is not an option. Transparency and accountability drive a charter’s key performance indicators.
About Dr. Kenneth C. Pascal:
Dr. Ken Pascal was Dean of Academic Affairs at The Art Institute of Houston. He played a leadership role in planning, budgeting, assessing educational programs, and establishing branch campuses in San Antonio and Austin. He brings to The Royal School System Board of Trustees extensive experience in hiring art teachers and developing courses in design fields. His bachelor’s degree in psychology is from Yale University, and he earned a doctorate in education from UCLA.