Charter school waitlists reach high; AISD works on improvements

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — While officials in the Austin Independent School District work to improve schools and programs, the number of students on wait lists for charter schools is “at its height”, according to a report released by the Texas Charter Schools Association.

The report, called Charter School Enrollment and Demand, shows that while 25,035 students are already enrolled in Austin area charter schools, 9,973 students are on waiting lists because of limited availability. The association’s officials say this shows interest from parents to send their kids to charter schools is increasing, but a notice on the association’s website says “thousands of students continue to languish on waitlists” while they continue to attend public schools.

Officials said they collected data from the 2018-2019 school year from 50 participating charter schools in the Austin-area. 

The report says that some of the benefits to sending students to charter schools include a more focused experience that will prepare them for life after high school and that students needs are put before bureaucracy.

But, critics have been saying all along charter schools hurt traditional public schools — not just by taking students but also state funding.

“My mom would release a wonderful, glowing report about me as well,” says Scott Milder, Founder, Friends of Texas Public Schools. “It’s disappointing to see the Texas Charter School Association imply that children are ‘languishing’ in their neighborhood public schools while waiting for a spot to open at a charter school. That’s complete nonsense. Some parents are considering charter schools because of false perceptions of failure resulting from our state’s grossly flawed accountability ratings, politicians promoting their privatization agendas by undermining public confidence in our schools, and, frankly, deceitful marketing tactics of some in the charter school community. Let’s be clear. Charter schools do not outperform our neighborhood public schools. They certainly do not offer as many programs and extracurricular activities. The Association could have released the same report on the merits of charter schools without insulting the hard working students and professional educators in our Texas Public Schools.”

A statement from AISD said in part: “AISD is proud of our diverse offerings like athletics, fine arts, dual language, Early College High School models that allow students to gain an associate degree by the time they graduate from High School, at no cost and more. While we recognize there is competition, our research shows the district looses more students each year to surrounding districts and other public school districts over charters.”

AISD leaders announced possible closures due to low enrollment in December of 2018, and Starlee Coleman, the association’s CEO, said they are a good opportunity for the district to partner with charter schools to offer programming at those buildings at no cost to taxpayers. However, Coleman and a district spokesperson confirm there are no current conversations between them about that. 

The Austin Independent School District is moving forward on our reinvention plan to ensure all students are thriving in 21st-century learning environments. It is premature to say how district facilities will be utilized in the future. However, we are working with partners to identify the needs of our communities and how our facilities can best serve those needs.” 

Part of that includes leaders hosting meetings to update the public on the Facility Master Plan, a long-range roadmap to upgrade district facilities. Leaders are looking for feedback on athletics and wellness, career and technical education and industry pathways, fine arts and creative learning.

The district will be holding the following two meetings:

  • Thursday, March 7 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Crockett Early College High School Cafeteria located at 5601 Manchaca Road 
  • Saturday, March 9 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Austin High School Cafeteria located at 1715 W. Cesar Chavez Street

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