Enrollments in the Cleveland Independent School District in Texas was growing rapidly. Voters passed bond issues, but it wasn’t enough. The superindent turned to the state for help. Sadly, Governor Gregg Abbott and his hand-picked State Commissioner Mike Morath are obsessed with charters, despite the fact that their academic results are below those of public schools.

Here is the sad story of Abbott and Morath’s devotion to charter expansion.

Texas Monthly, October 6, 2021

Texas Monthly writer Bekah McNeel breaks the story of how Commissioner Morath fast-tracked the approval of five new International Leadership of Texas (ILT) charter schools in Cleveland ISD within only three business days, skirting TEA’s own rules and process, and despite concerns raised by 12 area Superintendents whose districts will be affected.

The Superintendents co-signed a letter to the Commissioner that questioned ILT’s track record, especially with low-income students who are English Learners, and TEA’s rapid approval of the amendment application without input from the affected school districts.

The article also reinforces the concerns that local communities and school districts have been raising for years: The Commissioner ignores the impact of new charter campuses on local school districts and communities when he approves an unlimited number of new charter campuses without public notice or opportunities for input from the public.

The article is attached.
Link: https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/texas-charter-school-expansion-cleveland/

Key Excerpts:

  • Instead of offering funding and flexibility to the public schools…the state fast-tracked the expansion of charter schools that aren’t held to the same standards of community accountability or required to find a seat for every student regardless of ability or disciplinary status.
  • Public school advocates worry that the process circumvents public accountability. Charter growth is driven by decisions made in Austin and charter network headquarters, not by the communities where those schools will be located or their elected school boards.
  • Kevin Brown, the executive director of the Texas Association of School Administrators, said that when decisions are made in a public school district about anything from curriculum to adding new schools, democratically elected boards create a conduit for parents and community members to offer their views. Charters, by contrast, whose appointed boards often do not live in the cities and towns whose students they serve, do not need a community’s approval to open a new school next door. “To a local community, it often feels like an invasion from outsiders,” Brown said.
  • On that same day, Conger and ILTexas chief financial officer James Dworkin broke the good news of their expansion on a call with investment managers. “If somebody’s looking for ‘where’s the local school?’ they’ll be pointed to an ILTexas school,” Dworkin said. “That is a change to the charter industry as I’ve seen it in my time here, and I’m proud to be part of ILTexas leading the way.”
  • In response to concerns that ILT is allowed to expand under state rules even though it currently has 2 F rated campuses and 6 D rated campuses out of a total of 32 campuses, State Board of Education member Pat Hardy from Fort Worth responded, as Texas Monthly wrote: “Hardy accepted that the policy allowed expansion, but pushed back: ‘I really think that any charter school that has an F should not have the privilege to expand.’ Morath advised her, politely, to take up the issue with the Legislature.”
  • For the record:
  • 884 new charter campuses have been approved between 2010 – 2021 in Texas through charter expansion amendments approved solely by the Commissioner of Education.
  • 586 new charter campuses have been approved since 2015.