For some reason, Texas is now being besieged by charter operators, who see good pickings there and who want to act fast before another blue wave washes away the supporters of school choice, as the November blue wave washed away supporters of vouchers. The Texas legislature cut deeply into school funding after the 2008 recession and never restored what it cut. The legislature just doesn’t seem to care about funding public school, only charter and (someday) vouchers, even though 90% of the state’s children are in public schools. Someone should ask the Legislature about what they have in mind for the generation now in school. Do they want them to be productive citizens? Do they want them to be creators, innovators, doctors, scientists, artists, and engineers? Or do they expect those millions of children to be unskilled laborers?

Lorena Garcia is a superintendent in a small district in the Rio Grande Valley. She tells it like it is. She has the courage to stand up to the charter billionaires.

Lorena Garcia, assistant superintendent for human resources and support services at Mission CISD, sparked a lively debate over the level of support state lawmakers are providing charter schools.

Garcia brought up the subject of charters in a Q&A about public school finance at a luncheon held at the Cimarron Club in Mission.

“There does not seem to be much support for public education by the legislature. In addition to that there is a lot of talk about support for vouchers and private schools,” Garcia said, after hearing a presentation on public school finance.

“The accountability that these charter entities have is a lot lower than the high standards that public schools have to achieve. So, that is going to cut into that pie of funding that is available to public schools.”

Chandra Kring Villanueva, program director for economic opportunity at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, was one of the speakers at the luncheon. She welcomed Garcia’s comments.

“Charter schools and how they are funded is a huge concern for us because it really is inefficient to be running two parallel education systems,” Villanueva said.

“One of the things that we are seeing is that the growth in recaptured funding is almost the exact amount as we are spending for the charter system. So, a lot of us education advocates are really monitoring how the things are trending together. Recapture and charter are tied in a lot of different ways.”

Recaptured money is funding that a public school returns to the State of Texas. Those that have to do this, as part of the so-called Robin Hood equalized funding system, are deemed property-rich.

“Recapture is based on your wealth per student. So, if you are losing students to a charter school, it makes your wealth per student grow. That is one of the only reasons why Houston ISD fell into recapture. Because of their extremely high charter population. If those charter students were actually enrolled in Houston ISD, they would have gotten twice as much money from the state as their recapture payment was,” Villanueva said.

“So, there is a lot of concern that the legislature is basically using recapture to fuel the growth of charter schools without having to put any more dollars into it. Which in essence means our property tax dollars are going to these charter schools.”

Villanueva made the case that, in essence, local property tax dollars are going to charter schools. However, she said, local taxpayers are unable to vote for a charter’s board of directors, have no say on where they are located, nor when and where they build their campuses.

“So, there are some huge concerns around how charters are funded and the impact on schools.”

Villanueva claimed that when charters are taken out of the equation, the level of state funding for public education drops from 38 percent to 32 percent, noting that charter schools are 100 percent state-funded.