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.
“These students are Texas public school students who deserve facilities funding under the Texas Constitution.”
Excerpts from the Petition:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.