Published by El Paso Matters here.
It’s time to talk about the Texas Education Agency’s unhealthy addiction to charter schools.
Charter schools are publicly funded but privately operated. Originally intended to be “laboratories of innovation” for the public school system, charters have evolved into a vehicle for making big money off of taxpayers while skirting the oversight and accountability that come with running an independent school district.
Charter school chains serve 7% of Texas students yet take up 15% of Texas’ education budget. The number of charters in Texas has nearly doubled over the past decade, putting a strain on the state budget and wreaking fiscal havoc with education budgets in districts like Houston Independent School District. Most of this vast growth has occurred without the knowledge or consent of Texas voters.
The Texas Education Agency reviews charter applications, and finalists are presented to the State Board of Education, on which I serve. We are allowed to interview applicants and may either approve or veto each application. Whatever happens after that is out of our hands.
As the only elected representatives in the approval process, we have taken our job as safeguards of taxpayer dollars very seriously. What we’ve found has been troubling.
The TEA and Commissioner Mike Morath have routinely recommended awarding your tax dollars to applicants who lacked even the most basic plans for things like transportation, food service, and providing for students with special needs. Many finalists acknowledged they would offer nothing different from the school district in which they would be placed. Others would have imported unvetted curriculum while exporting our tax dollars to operators in California and New York.
I’m proud that the SBOE has fought to protect Texans’ hard-earned money; at the last board meeting, we vetoed four of the five finalists up for consideration. But that is where our authority ends.
The vast majority of charter growth in Texas has occurred through expansion amendments under which an existing charter chain is allowed to open additional campuses. Expansions fall entirely under the authority of the TEA and Commissioner Morath. That means a charter could expand to your school district and siphon away funding without you finding out until your taxes go up and bus routes and campuses begin to close.
Fortunately, the Biden Administration has issued new federal rules cracking down on fraud and deception within the charter school industry. Any new charter or expansion applicant must now reach out to the community and hold a public hearing before being granted federal funds. Charter schools must also explain their plans to ensure diversity and provide a community impact analysis.
These gains are significant, but the charter school lobby has already engineered a failsafe.
This past election cycle, charter school profiteers led by billionaire Netflix founder Reed Hastings and Walmart heir Jim Walton contributed nearly $2 million to pro-charter candidates in Texas – including candidates for the SBOE. One SBOE candidate received more than $250,000 and several others more than $180,000. Compare that to the $2,000 I spent on my first campaign, and you get the picture – charter tycoons have decided to literally buy the elected body that considers charter applications.
It’s time for an intervention.
The Texas Legislature must expand SBOE authority to include charter expansion amendments and must prohibit SBOE candidates from accepting political contributions from charter schools and organizations that represent them. Texas taxpayers deserve better. Our kids deserve better.
Let’s break the addiction before there’s no public school system left to save.
El Paso: State Board of Education Member Georgina C. Pérez delivers testimony during the Texas Education Agency’s public hearing on the Charter School Performance Framework, strongly encouraging public oversight of charter operators’ academic performance.
Good morning, my name is Georgina Perez, and I’m a member of the State Board of Education, District 1, which covers El Paso to Odessa and down to Laredo. I’m here today to talk about the importance of the charter school performance framework in the context of my board.
Charter School Performance Public Hearing, Monday 4 Oct 2021
Please consider testifying at the public hearing to reinforce the importance of including information relevant to parents and public and including standards that better represent whether charters serve all students.
You must register to participate in the public hearing (see link) and to testify (see question on the registration form).
Testimony will be limited to three minutes per speaker. The hearing will conclude once all who have registered have been given the opportunity to comment.
Why the Charter School Performance Framework (CSPF) is important
TEA is required by statute to create a Charter School Performance Framework (CSPF) that rates charter school performance using indicators in three areas: Academic, Financial, and Operations.
TEA is updating the CSPF using 2020 data and taking comments from the public that are due on October 4, 2021.
TEA uses the CSPF ratings for a variety of important determination including, oversight, eligibility for charter expansion amendment, charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation. A charter school rated “high quality” on the CSPF is given preferential treatment.
Concerns have been raised that the indicators used in the CSPR do not provide a comprehensive picture of charter performance. For example, the indicators do not measure whether charter schools underserve English Learners or students with special needs.
Key Points: Recommended changes to the 2020 CSPF
The following organizations endorse the comments on the proposed changes to the CSPF submitted 4 October 2021:
Senate Bill 3 takes the place of House Bill 3979, and is effective September 1, 2021:
To: El Paso & Dona Ana County Schools, Public & Private,
We are a coalition of providers that serve the children of the Borderland. As a collective we are extremely concerned about the new Delta Variant of the COVID-19 virus. In particular, the CDC has indicated this variant is more contagious and highly transmissible to younger persons. We are recommending as a group, the following safety guidelines in accordance with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations. These guidelines are to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to guide the schools with possible/and or positive cases. The priority is to continue in-person learning and not have to resort to 100% virtual learning.
Steps to take if there is a positive COVID-19 case or possible COVID-19 positive case:
The most common symptoms for COVID-19 in children include:
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We must continue to be cautious and safeguard our most precious resource, the children of the Borderland.
TEA COVID-19 Support & Guidance
19 Aug 2021 - Public Health Guidance
K-12 COVID-19 Testing Project
- This is the program that provides ISDs with FREE Rapid Testing materials. The deadline to apply is now 19 Aug 2021. https://tea.texas.gov/texas-schools/health-safety-discipline/covid/covid-19-support-public-health-orders
Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) was authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act -
- Deadline to apply August 26, 2021 @ yourtexasbenefits.com/Learn/PEBT
Chair of Pediatrics, Texas Tech UHSC and CTO of El Paso's Children's Hospital asks for universal masking in schools
masking in schools. As a pediatrician, I support guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)1 and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)2 that in-person learning options are preferable to virtual for both the academic and social-developmental merits. COVID-19 outbreaks, which could be averted by universal masking along with other mitigation practices, could force school closures and disrupt in-person children's education.
The Delta variant is a game changer with unknown long-term effects on our children. It is more than twice as contagious as the original COVID-19 strain and it is now the dominant strain in our community. Despite all of our recent progress in fighting this pandemic, the rapidly rising cases in the El Paso area now show a disappointing regression back to where we were nearly 8 months ago, with daily new cases in the - 200 range. El Paso Children’s Hospital is currently devoting 20 to 40% of it inpatient pediatric acute care beds due to COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. Adult hospitalizations are also increasing at an alarming rate and more and more ICU beds are being used by COVID-19 patients.3 Current vaccination rates among children aged 12 to 15 in El Paso are less than 30%. This, combined with the lack of an approved COVID-19 vaccine for children less than 12 means that rates of protection in our classrooms are well below the 70-80% needed to achieve herd immunity.
To keep our children in school while keeping them healthy, I support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of universal masking Pre-K through 12 be required for all students, teachers, staff, and visitors, even for those who are vaccinated. This is consistent with the updated CDC guidance which was released on July 27th.
The recommendations include the following:
- Universal masking for everyone as noted above while indoors and when safe distances cannot be maintained.
- The schools should partner with local public health experts to determine when to safely discontinue universal masking.
- Mask exemptions due to underlying medical conditions should be permitted with authorization by a licensed medical practitioner (MD, DO, APRN, PA).
- Mask policies will be enforced according to the school's code of conduct and the necessary disciplinary action shall occur for individuals who do not comply.
These policies should be reviewed on a routine basis and modified according to the most
current data available due the fluid and ever-changing nature of this deadly disease.
I urge the El Paso area Superintendents, Deputy Superintendents, the Boards of Education, County Commissioners and all community leaders to mandate a universal mask policy for the safety and health of our children and our community as a whole.
Glenn J. Fennelly, MD, MPH
Vice President of the Board
Doctors of the World, USA
State Board of Education Member Georgina C. Pérez, Senator César Blanco, and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego strongly encourage local public health authority to require masks in El Paso County public schools.
As more and more Texas communities take decisive action to protect public safety by defying Governor Abbott's ban on mask mandates, we strongly encourage Dr. Ocarranza to consider a mask requirement to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community and keep our children safe. As the health authority for El Paso County, Dr. Ocarranza has both the authority and the responsibility to protect public health, and we stand ready to provide support. Nothing is more important than keeping our kids safe. The time for action is now.
August 2021 LEA Rapid COVID Testing Opt-In Application
This application is intended for public schools that are not currently in the state sponsored K-12 testing project. This application closes on Thursday, August 29, 2021. Public schools that are already in the program DO NOT need to fill out this application.
Every Monday & Thursday - ISD's can rapid-test every teacher, staff, custodial, cafeteria, bus, maint., etc.
At no cost to the ISD
Georgina C. Pérez
Texas State Board of Education District 1