In Waco, I met a mother and her 9th grade son who had recently moved to a new home a few blocks away, and was frustrated when she learned they could no longer attend the Midway ISD schools. Because their new residence was in the Waco ISD, which historically performs below Midway, she felt her son’s education was being hindered.
“I called the school (Midway) and asked if there was any way he could stay, but there was no way,” she explained. “My son was doing really well in Midway, but now, the teachers at Waco are just…” as she waved her hand and said, “so-so.” Now at a charter school, and happy with her son’s performance, this mom is finally satisfied.
Like many minorities in Texas, limited by school district lines and education bureaucracy, many are finding themselves in a hopeless situation. As more people seek alternatives to educate their children, some are looking at charter schools, but limitations on the number of charter schools allowed, have prevented students from having the option to attend a better school.
It’s this precise scenario that drove Senator Dan Patrick, Chairman of the Public Education Committee, to push the envelope on education by presenting SB2, opening the door to more charters by uncapping the number of charter schools allowed to operate in the state. Charter schools are increasing in popularity because of the alternatives they provide to Texas families, allowing students to thrive despite their socio-economic conditions.
Still categorized under the Public School system, charter schools get their funding from the state, and teachers continue to receive the benefits of working in the public school system. The state pays charter schools on the number of students attending, based on a rate of 90 percent of the funding as that of a traditional public school student. So, if a traditional public school receives $8,000 per student, and they opted to attend a charter school, that school would receive $7,200 dollars.
Senator Patrick’s bill creates the framework and foundation for true innovation in education which would positively affect countless students without increasing the cost of education.
It creates a system in which underutilized facilities are reported by school districts and posted for prospective charters to view. In essence, if there’s available space, and a charter submits an application and is approved, they will be allowed to operate in the already existing facility, saving millions of taxpayer dollars by eliminating the need to build.
When it comes to advancing the Hispanic community, charter schools will play a major role in preparing students for the jobs of the future. Charter schools can fill the gap, helping to increase graduation rates among Hispanics, paving the way for a skilled workforce who will reap the benefits of education and training.
Of all the bills proposed this 83rd legislative session, in my opinion, none can have the immediate impact to benefit the community as much as Senator Patrick’s SB2.