Texas lawmakers may lift cap on charter schools

Senate Bill 2 also targets troubled charter schools

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SAN ANTONIO - Texas lawmakers may lift the state's decade-old cap of 215 charter schools under Senate Bill 2 introduced by Republican Dan Patrick of Houston, chair of the Senate Education Committee.

But Patrick said it is still unknown how many more charter schools would be allowed to accommodate 100,000 families currently on waiting lists.

Patrick said his bill also would target charter schools with troubled histories.

"There is a small percentage of charter schools that we need to close down," Patrick said.

Patrick said less than 10 percent of charter schools are in that category, unlike the vast majority that offer many at-risk students from failing schools chosen by lottery a chance at a college-bound education.

"Every bad charter we have is holding back a great charter from being established," Patrick said.

However, Patrick did not say what the criteria or process would be, other than a possible state board or a special focus by the Texas Education Agency.

"We need someone who not only approves them, but monitors them and helps them along," Patrick said.

Shelley Potter, president of the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, said up to now, "closing charters that have improprieties, financial difficulties, etc., the track record has been terrible."

Potter also questions the push to expand the number of charter schools.

"Powerful corporate interests are using charter schools as a bridge to for-profit schools, which is really what they want," Potter said. "We gave out all these charters that didn't work out as well as they should have, but now we want to lift the cap on charters? That doesn't make sense to me."

But Patrick said many groups are like Texans Deserve Great Schools, a coalition of foundations interested in education reform.

Yet Potter said the Legislature should focus on restoring the $5.4 billion in public school funding.

"I find that most people want strong neighborhood schools that are at the heart and soul of their community."

For a list of stories Jessie Degollado has done, click here.


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