Warning Against the Consolidation of Power
Yesterday the Senate Education Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 28. Pastors for Texas Children submitted written testimony to oppose this bill, which we believe unfairly benefits charter schools over traditional public schools.
One of our highest legislative priorities is making sure that charter schools operate at a level playing field with public schools.
This bill would prevent our democratically elected state board of education from vetting new charter school applicants, and remove their veto power when the commissioner approves the applications. Thus, the bill would put full charter school authorization in the hands of one unelected official.
Furthermore, the bill would remove authority from municipalities (mayors, city councils, etc.) to enforce zoning regulations to charter schools, essentially giving charters free rein for where to put new schools.
We believe that local control and community input are invaluable pieces of our society, and should not be sacrificed. We outlined a moral and biblical argument for that in our written testimony, which you can read by clicking the button below.
The hearing yesterday was discouraging for many other reasons. It is clear that our legislators are not all operating from the same sources of information as it regards public school funding.
We were proud of several our good friends and superintendents for taking the time to testify yesterday and advocating persistently for their students. The superintendent of Frisco, Dr. Mike Waldrip, maintained that the more students leave for charter schools, the more revenue his district loses. Some committee members had a very difficult time believing his testimony, and they refused to comprehend.
So, let me try to explain it:
Five students leave a public school for a charter school. Their tax dollars (let's say it's $1000 each) follow them to that charter school. So now the public school will receive $5000 less. But the students who left were spread out across five different grade levels and two different schools. So the superintendent cannot reduce any overhead costs by $5000. She cannot lower the air conditioning, or eliminate a teacher. The only place in the budget that can decrease is in special programs like libraries, art, music, languages, and all the things that make schools good.
What's more frustrating is that many charter schools are opening with a promise of providing these special programs like art, music, languages, which the neighborhood public school can no longer afford to provide.
This is how a charter school can negatively affect the public school.
Another interesting concept came to light in yesterday's hearing. Senator Bob Hall clarified that the reason we support charter schools in Texas is not so that students in otherwise "failing" schools have an alternative. He maintained that we must provide a plethora of choice for every child. Pure choice is the reason we have charter schools. Pure choice is the reason that our property taxes are funding two entirely parallel school systems, and fully funding neither one.
It is important, then, for people of faith to pause here and question the necessity of pure choice. This creates a marketplace, where parents are consumers and children are commodities, where their inherent worth is boiled down to their test scores. What if we forego the supposed pleasure of choice and instead, recommit to the common good--where we understand that our personal success is dependent on the success of our community?
The majority of the Senate Education Committee believes public education is a market. We do not believe that. We believe it is a provision from God that needs to be protected.
We give thanks for Senator Beverly Powell who was the voice of reason many times yesterday, as well as Senator Royce West. The bill was left pending in committee, and we will let you know more as it moves.