Michael Williams, Texas State Commissioner, gave Great Hearts Academy permission to open another charter in Dallas even though the state board of education tuned it down. Williams is not an educator. He is a favorite of the Bush family who previously served as head of the Texas Railroad Commission, which “regulates” the oil and gas industry (not?).

Great Hearts is controversial because it has campuses that have little or no diversity, it does not provide transportation, and it charges substantial fees to parents. It was repeatedly rejected in Nashville for its lack of diversity plans.

In Arizona, the charter chain was criticized by the Arizona Republic for buying nearly $1 million in books from a board member.

“”I certainly think it flies in the face of legislative intent,” said Thomas Ratliff, a Republican SBOE member from Mount Pleasant, of Williams’ decision. “Republicans are critical of this president for doing executive orders around an elected Congress, and it looks like Michael Williams decided that playbook looks OK.”

“Critics have pointed to the disproportionately white and affluent student body of Great Hearts’ campuses in the Phoenix area as evidence that those practices keep low-income students out of the school. In Phoeniz, nearly 60 percent of public school students are Hispanic or black, 69 percent of the nearly 7,000 students are white. Only two of Great Hearts’ 16 Arizona campuses participate in a federal program that offers free and reduced-price meals for low-income students. That concern led the Nashville school district to deny Great Hearts’ charter application last year because of what one official described as “serious and persistent questions about their definitions of excellence, and reliance on selectivity and mission fit for success.”