New standards for charter schools likely to be adopted by Texas Education Agency

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Education Agency is expected to approve new standards for charter schools in the direction of the legislature.

When approved, charter school organizations that meet certain standards will be encouraged to add more campuses. Both supporters and critics say it will encourage large networks like Kipp, IDEA, and Harmony to open up more campuses.

KIPP has several charter schools in Austin.

If the non-profit meets new state standards there could soon be more locations according to Autumn Arnett from the Texas Charter Schools Association.

“Eliminates the red tape for schools that have proved they have a good academic and financial history,” said Arnett, who wants to cut into a waitlist thousands of students deep.

The new scoring system will be separated into three tiers: 70% based on academics; 20% based on financials; and 10% based on how the school complies with state rules and regulations.

If a school is tier 1, they’ll be able to start up campuses faster. If a school is tier 3, it’s easier for their contract is not be renewed.

“We’ve got the school closures going on here in Austin. So there is going to be several neighborhoods where families are not going to be able to have schools,” said Arnett, “If we could bring those schools into those neighborhoods, we could serve more families.”

But some in Austin ISD and public school education groups point the finger at charter schools as a contributing factor to low enrollment.

“If you’ve got two schools within a mile of each other, they’re absolutely cannibalizing each other attendance zones,” said Monty Exter from the Association of Texas Professional Educators.

ATPE signed on to a letter with 14 other education groups, opposing the change. They don’t like that schools are judged differently; charter schools are governed directly by their non-profit board, traditional public schools are governed by elected school board trustees.

The competition charter school supporters say they’ll bring, has critics worried the pool for students at the government-run public school with dry up.

“That’s when you start to see cuts in services, programs, because even if a small number of students pulled out. It still makes it more expensive to operate the school district, the school that is there,” said Ellen Williams, a consultant for the Texas Association of School Boards.

Public comment was taken this week, to be adopted in March.

AISD is beginning to take on more vocal opposition against charter schools.

Last summer, the State Board of Education denied an application by the charter school operator Royal Public Schools.

Officials said the school was too close to Burnet Middle School and AISD would lose $85 million over 10 years if the charter school enrolled AISD students.

In Texas, charter schools are public schools that are independent of school districts. They have contracts with the state or local board. Charter schools are funded with state and federal funds as well as private grants but they do not have taxing authority.

Generally speaking, charter schools have open enrollment and must accept any student who applies. But there are some exceptions. The student must live in the charter’s approved boundary and there’s a cap on the number of students it may serve.

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