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11:17 am CST - October 29, 2012

Posted under On The Record

Charter School Students Join “Efficient & Adequate” Lawsuit

Parents, taxpayers petition for charter school students’ Constitutional Rights

Texas Insider Report: AUSTIN, Texas – “Our parents exercised their options and chose the right school for their children to be successful. They did not, however, want to choose less funding for their students,” said David Dunn (right,) executive director of the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA). “So if anyone is entitled to legal relief, it’s charter schools — which provide better education for less money, yet still face various inequities and restrictions under Texas law,” said James Ho, former Solicitor General of Texas representing TCSA.  

“It is hard to achieve the kind of educational efficiency envisioned by our Constitution with the facility funding of zero for students enrolled in public charter schools,” said Dunn, as Charter school parents and taxpayers asked the Court to act on behalf of their constitutional claims to a suitable and efficient, free public education.

In a petition filed Friday at the Travis County District Court, the plaintiffs requested protection for children’s constitutional rights as it relates to facilities funding for open-enrollment charter schools, as well as for lifting the arbitrary cap imposed by the Legislature on the number of charter schools allowed to operate in Texas.

Fifteen lawyers, representing six different plaintiff groups, crowded one side of state District Judge John Dietz’s Travis County courtroom in Austin early last week. The sweeping school finance trial involves about two-thirds of Texas’ school districts.

The case is expected to eventually end up in the Texas Supreme Court.

“It’s hard to imagine any parent who wouldn’t want more funding for—and more competition among—our schools,” said Ho, former Solicitor General of Texas and consultant to TCSA.

“Of course, there’s a difference between what Texans might want, and what a Texas court can impose. But our Constitution expressly requires that our educational system be efficient,” Ho said.

The following parents and taxpayers are plaintiffs in the case:

  • Mario Flores’ five-year old son attends Wayside Schools, Eden Park Academy campus in Austin.
  • Jason and Sarah Christensen reside in San Antonio where their child attends Harmony School of Innovation.
  • Dana Allen chose for her child to attend Lindsley Park Community School, which is part of the East Dallas Community School charter network.
  • Christopher Baerga is a parent to a child who attends New Frontiers Charter School in San Antonio.
  • Brooks Flemister is a seasoned public education professional and has a nine-year-old child in SER-Niño’s Charter School. He was the first director of the Texas Education Agency’s Charter School Division and is currently an educator at KIPP Houston.

Texas Charter Schools Association represents the vast majority of charter schools in the state.

“There are more than 480 charter school campuses with more than 130,000 charter school students in Texas,” said Robert Schulman, lead trial counsel, attorney at Schulman, Lopez and Hoffer, LLP.

“These students are Texas public school students who deserve facilities funding under the Texas Constitution.”

Excerpts from the Petition:

  1. Charter Schools Achieve Better Educational Outcomes For Less Cost Per Pupil. Over half of all charter school campuses are located in the metropolitan areas of Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, resulting in a disproportionate minority and economically disadvantaged charter school student population… But within these disproportionate urban minority and economically disadvantaged student populations, standard accountability charter schools outperformed school districts.
  2. If Anyone Suffers From Unconstitutionally Inadequate Levels of Funding, it is Students Attending Charter Schools—Which Receive Zero Funding for Educational Facilities. Unlike school districts, which have a local tax base and receive state aid for facilities, charter schools have neither a local tax base nor receive direct state aid for instructional facilities. Consequently, charter schools are forced to spend operating dollars to support the cost of instructional facilities. An efficient system of public education requires not only classroom instruction, but also the classrooms where that instruction will occur. These two components of an efficient system—instruction and facilities—are inseparable. The current system forces charter schools to deplete funding which would otherwise be available for operational and instructional supports.
  3. The Statutory Cap On Charter Schools Is An Unconstitutionally Arbitrary Obstacle To the Ability of the State Commissioner of Education To Achieve Greater Efficiency In Education. The Legislature has imposed an arbitrary cap on the growth of charter schools. The cap limits the number of charters that can be authorized to 215. This presents an arbitrary obstacle to the State’s ability to achieve constitutional efficiency and stymies the very efficiency charter schools were intended to promote. Over 56,000 students are now on waiting lists for limited charter school seats.

Full Petition can be found at the following link.

The Texas Charter Schools Association is the statewide Association representing approximately 460 charter schools and educating more than 110,000 students in every part of our great state.

In total, an estimated 135,000 Texas students attend open-enrollment charter schools  with an additional 56,000 students currently on waiting lists.

Visit www.TxCharterSchools.org for more information.

4 Comments

Lorna
11:19 pm CST
October 29, 2012

Wait a minute here. Your article states there is somewhere between 40-56,000 on waiting lists for a charter school. Yet the Gulenist operated charter schools in Texas have stated publically on “60 Minutes” they have over 30,000 on a waiting list.

Will the REAL number that is not inflated please stand up and be honest. Unfortunately charter schools which are publicly financed by privately ran are allowed to advertise, market, and have expensive public relations without so much as a fact check. Charter schools are a business which make more money with more students.

If any of you believe these inflated numbers then you are a fool.
I will believe it when they allow a outside auditor to vet these so-called waiting lists. So far the charter schools have not allowed this crying foul and “privacy”

Yet Harmony Science Academy got away with stealing over $187,000 intended for special needs students – instead it ended up in their general payroll account. Is this REALLY serving the children of Texas and America or the Gulen bankroll which is estimated to be over $26 million and growing.

Texas grow some will ya all.

Anonygoose
11:48 pm CST
October 29, 2012

Nice work Mr.Dunn. Did you cook up this lawsuit yourself or did your charter school cronies put you and the children up to this? I hardly doubt these children are law savvy enough to even know what they are suing for. Is this just another scam to tap into that Texas Educational fund which does not recognize charter schools for good reason.

If you mean by educating on the cheap then you mean by bringing in more of your Gulenite buddy’s from Turkey claiming there is a shortage of well qualified American teachers. This scam is only here to fraud the government and launder money back to Turkey.

Mr. Dunn, you are aware that there is five Federal Investigations going on right now? I am certain your IRS records will now be going under the scope including your career and reputation.

It would be most wise for you to come clean with the FBI, DHS and Department of Education before the long arm of the law grabs you by the short and curlys. Your information has now become our information.

Expect us.

garywfbg
9:39 am CST
October 29, 2012

@Anonygoose

We are not worried about the Feds and any of their investigations. Go to Vermont and threaten that crap. Our AG should be evidence with his stance on UN poll watchers that the Feds don’t intimidate us in the least. Go scare some other liberal, as for us Texans we aint SCARED!!!!

Harmony Parent
1:58 pm CST
October 29, 2012

I think the funding issue (with real numbers) is worth a look. HOWEVER, I also see the need to limit, monitor, and /or police charter schools. As a Harmony parent, my child attended for middle school. 1st year school opened – there were issues, but we were told its being resolved, its our first year, etc… 2nd year – it got worse. With teachers quitting or being fired at the drop of a hat. Students are suffering. Then we learn although students are “in a particular class” but not being taught what the guideline state – those students must take AND pass the state test for the class – with potential of being retained, loss of credits, etc. What are the students being taught? They have gotten so secretive and discourage parent involvement, its eery. None of middle school electives, exploratories. Now its time for HS – and guess what..for the first time in my kids life: he does not have the required skills/knowledge to compete for high school programs other than whats at the local school. Thanks Harmony for setting my child back. He definitely dd not get an education at your school. You should not be getting funding to teach ANY kids.

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