Archives for category: Funding

Jennifer Hall Lee is a trustee of the public schools of the Pasadena Unified School District. She explains here why public schools are the foundation stone of democracy. All of us pay taxes for public schools even if we have no children; even if our children are no longer school-age; even if our children attend private or religious schools. Supporting public schools is a civic responsibility. Paying for other people’s private choices is not.

In the Superintendent’s Enrollment Committee for the Pasadena Unified School District, a group of us are reading and discussing a book entitled American Public Education and the Responsibility of its Citizens by Sarah Stitzlein.

The book is compelling because it explains why public schools are indispensable to our democracy and how we the people are part and parcel of its success.

I chose the book for the enrollment committee because we live in a time when the importance of public schools is being lost in the trends of privatizing education. Public schools have a dynamic history that seems to keep getting lost.

Why Public Schools

So why are public schools important? Here is my answer: Every child has a seat in a public school. It sounds simple but it is quite profound. No matter who the child is or from where they came, they belong here.

Public education has had its struggles in the United States to be sure. Now we fight the hyper capitalistic phenomenon of privatization (vouchers) in order to preserve the uniquely American institution of public education. At every turn, it seems there is a private company marketing to us to let us know that our child might be better off somewhere else besides a public school.

We live in a time when we are seeing ourselves as consumers rather than citizens.

It’s hard to wrap our heads around the complexity in the world today. The political theorist Benjamin Barber in 2017 suggested that we shift our thinking about the world from seeing nations and instead see our cities, where the majority of people live. It is in the cities, he said, “where we announce ourselves as citizens and participants as people with a right to write our own narratives.”

I understand his point as we are closest to the functions of government in our local communities. We are more apt to know who our city council members are and our librarians, our school board trustees, our mayors, and our county supervisors.

I would extend Barber’s idea to our public schools.

Personally, I think of myself as an Altadenan resident and a member of the PUSD.

For me, it’s easy to support and love my local school district. Simply standing in any one of our schools is a humbling experience because our schools have been through so much history — segregation, integration, and then, unfortunately, resegregation, and now privatization, low birth rates, and high housing costs.

Throughout it all, we succeed.

The PUSD is thought of as a leader throughout the state of California. Our ideas are followed by others in the state in terms of our graduate defense and our graduate profile. We have had many successes and here are just a few:

• We are competitive. In our community, we have the largest number of private schools per capita, yet we are competitive with private schools because of our teachers, principals, signature programs, curriculum, and our diverse student body. There are private school students who choose to come to our district.

• Our graduates attend Yale, Harvard, Vanderbilt, UCLA, Pasadena City College, Howard, Occidental, USC, UC Berkeley, Tulane, UC San Diego, Brown, UC Merced, and more.

• We have been entrusted with back-to-back federal magnet grants because we have shown success.

• We are successfully achieving socio-economic integration through open enrollment.

Public and Publics

When I say public school, I emphasize public.

Please open the link and read the rest of the article.

David Lapp, director of policy research for Research for Action in Philadelphia, recently wrote about the money wasted on Cybercharters in Pennsylvania. Apparently, the industry has a strong hold on the Pennsylvania legislature. There is no other reason that it continues to thrive.

During the worst of the pandemic, schools closed for reasons of safety and caution. Cybercharters boomed to fill the gap. But with physical schools open, the truth must be told about Cybercharters: they are a poor substitute for real schools.

Lapp writes:

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools into remote learning instruction many Pennsylvania policymakers expressed deep concerns. Many lamented the impact on mental health when students stopped receiving in-person learning and the important social skills that develops. Many were upset by the evidence of significant learning loss that accompanied the switch to virtual instruction.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly even enacted a new law allowing students to voluntarily repeat a grade to make up for lost educational opportunities.

This year policymakers should consider bringing that same energy to a similarly harmful and even more wasteful form of remote learning. One that’s been growing for more than two decades and reached a boiling point during the pandemic. I’m talking about the soaring enrollment growth and accompanying financial cost of Pennsylvania’s cyber-charter school expansion.

There’s solid research both nationally and in Pennsylvania that cyber-charter schools have an “overwhelmingly negative” impact on student learning. The learning loss students experience from virtual instruction in cyber-charter schools appears similar to the learning loss students experienced from virtual instruction during the pandemic.

For each year a student is enrolled in cyber-charter school they are also more likely to experience chronic absenteeism and less like to enroll in post-secondary education.

There’s also clear evidence that spending on cyber-charter school expansion comes at the expense of students receiving in-person learning in school districts and brick & mortar charter schools, where more effective instruction is provided. In fact school districts—which pay for cyber-charter tuition from their own school budgets—have indicated that charter tuition is now their top budget pressure.

It’s easy to understand why. Pennsylvania already had the highest cyber-charter school enrollment in the country and then enrollment grew by 22,618 additional students during the pandemic. Districts are now spending over $1 billion dollars a year on cyber-charter tuition, reflecting an increase of $335 million from before the pandemic. These surging expenses impacted the vast majority of school districts in the state.

Cyber-charter tuition likely represents the most inefficient spending in Pennsylvania school finance. For one, the cyber-charter system is redundant. Both before and since the pandemic, most school districts continue to offer their own virtual schools. Secondly, the tuition rates mandated under current PA law require districts to pay cyber-charters more than it actually costs to operate virtual schools. And finally, when students leave for cyber-charter schools, districts must of course still operate their own brick & mortar schools for remaining students, only now with fewer resources….

In Research for Action’s recent report, The Negative Fiscal Impact of Cyber Charter Enrollment Due to COVID-19, we estimated that the tuition increase in just one year of the pandemic, from the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, led to between $290 to $308 million of additional stranded costs borne by school districts. Nearly the entire amount of increases in school district total expenditures statewide in 2020-21 were accounted for by increases in school district tuition payments to charter schools, most of which were for cyber-charters specifically.

Meanwhile, this tuition spike has left cyber-charters in Pennsylvania flush with surplus resources. More than half of the additional funding cyber-charters received from districts in 2020-21 was not even used for student expenses. Rather, cyber- charters funneled over $170 million into their general fund balances that, unlike school districts, have no statutory limits.

Leonie Haimson provides an update on the battle over the city’s education budget. Parents and teachers are fighting budget cuts by Mayor Eric Adams.

She writes:

Dear folks–

Sorry to say that late in the day yesterday, the Appellate Court granted the City a stay on Judge Frank’s decision that the Education budget was illegally adopted, which means that the school budget cuts can legally remain in place until the court hears the City’s appeal on August 29.

What’s particularly infuriating is that the City could have asked for a speedy decision from the Appellate court to settle this matter, but instead asked that the hearing not occur until the end of the month, which merely prolongs the uncertainty and the chaos that the City complained about in its brief. The statement from the Attorney for the plaintiffs about this latest decision is on the website here.

We have also prepared an updated FAQ about the court decisions. We are now asking the Council to push the Mayor to agree to a budget modification to restore the cuts as soon as possible, and not wait for any decision from the Court so that parents, teachers and kids can be assured of a safe, healthy and positive learning climate when they return to school in September.

Tomorrow, Thursday August 11, at 1 PM, parents, advocates and teachers will gather on the steps of City Hall to urge the City Council Members to demand the Mayor propose a budget modification, as they make their way into a Council stated meeting. They will then hold a press conference at 2 PM to convey this message . Please join them if you can! We must all do what we can to stop these horrific cuts to schools.

More soon, Leonie

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
phone: 917-435-9329
leonie@classsizematters.org
www.classsizematters.org
Follow on twitter @leoniehaimson
Subscribe to the Class Size Matters newsletter for regular updates at http://tinyurl.com/kj5y5co
Subscribe to the NYC Education list serv by emailing NYCeducationnews+subscribe@groups.io

Host of “Talk out of School” WBAI radio show and podcast at https://talk-out-of-school.simplecast.com/

Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema were the two Democrats whose support for the Inflation Reduction Act was in doubt until the very end. Manchin won protection for the fossil fuel industry. Sinema killed taxes that would hit the hedge fund industry. The Washington Post explains here:

Senate Democrats agreed Sunday to protect firms owned by the private equity industry from a new minimum tax on billion-dollar corporations, bowing to pressure from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who insisted on making the change to the Democrats’ sprawling climate, health-care and tax package.

The decision came as Democrats tried to hold their caucus together through nearly 19 hours of debate over the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which the 50-50 Senate approved Sunday with the help of a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Harris.


The package proposes hundreds of billions of dollars in fresh spending, financed in part through new taxes, including a corporate minimum tax that would require firms with more than $1 billion in annual profits to pay a tax rate of at least 15 percent. As originally written, the provision would have required private equity firms to tally profits from their various holdings and pay the tax if the total exceeded the $1 billion threshold.


Sinema, who for over a year has blocked Democratic ambitions to raise taxes, raised objections on Saturday, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.

The senator argued that, without changes to the bill, small and medium-sized businesses that happen to be owned by private equity firms would be exposed to the tax, violating a Democratic pledge to hike taxes only on the largest firms. A Sinema spokeswoman said several Arizona small businesses, including a plant nursery, had raised concerns.

The senator’s objections came days after she persuaded Democrats to abandon a different effort to raise taxes on private equity managers by closing the so-called “carried interest loophole,” which permits investment managers to pay lower rates on certain portions of their income.
In a statement, Sinema’s office said her goal is to “target tax avoidance, make the tax code more efficient, and support Arizona’s economic growth and competitiveness.”


“At a time of record inflation, rising interest rates, and slowing economic growth, Senator Sinema knows that disincentivizing investments in Arizona businesses would hurt Arizona’s economy’s ability to create jobs, and she ensured the Inflation Reduction Act helps Arizona’s economy grow,” the statement said.


The last-minute changes mark a significant victory for the private equity industry and an estimated savings of $35 billion over the next decade. Private equity represents a roughly $4 trillion industry in the United States, and as the sector has grown markedly over the past decade, it has flexed its considerable political muscle repeatedly in Washington.


From the start, the unusual way private equity businesses are structured posed a challenge for Democrats crafting the new minimum tax. Typically, large conglomerates are formed as “C corporations” under the tax code and pay corporate taxes. The new minimum tax would clearly apply to them. But private equity firms are legally formed as partnerships, which typically pay taxes on the individual returns of their owners. Senate Democrats say they crafted the legislation to ensure that wealthy investment managers who own numerous C corporations and other business entities collectively worth more than $1 billion would be subject to the tax.

But the tax was never intended to hit the smaller subsidiaries that make up private equity portfolios, said Ashley Schapitl, a spokeswoman for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who called industry claims to that effect “nonsense.”


Independent analysts largely agreed with that reading of the provision. “The language in the bill was intended to make sure they are treated the same way,” said Steve Wamhoff, a tax expert at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a left-leaning think tank. “The idea that billion-dollar private equity funds must be protected to save small businesses is absolutely absurd.”

The New York Times Magazine recently published a startling article about Alabama’s tax system is designed to impoverish the poor and enrich the rich. Written by Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein, the article documents why Alabama remains a poor state with a high rate of poverty and underfunded public services. If you want to read a road map to how to institutionalize extreme poverty, racism, and underdevelopment, read “Alabama Takes from the Poor and Gives to the Rich.”

The author explains that the state constitution was written in 1904 by a convention controlled by rich landowners. It capped property taxes at a low rate, which meant that any public services had to be paid for by other taxes, fines, and fees. Fines and fees are assessed for almost every interaction with government.

He writes:

In states like Alabama, almost every interaction a person has with the criminal justice system comes with a financial cost. If you’re assigned to a pretrial program to reduce your sentence, each class attended incurs a fee. If you’re on probation, you’ll pay a fee to take your mandatory urine test. If you appear in drug court, you will face more fees, sometimes dozens of times a year. Often, you don’t even have to break the law; you’ll pay fees to pull a public record or apply for a permit. For poor people, this system is a trap, sucking them into a cycle of sometimes unpayable debt that constrains their lives and almost guarantees financial hardship.

While almost every state in the country, both red and blue, levies fines and fees that fall disproportionately on the bottom rung of the income ladder, the situation in Alabama is far more dramatic, thanks to the peculiarities of its Constitution. Over a century ago, wealthy landowners and businessmen rewrote the Constitution to cap taxes permanently. As a result, today, Alabama has one of the cruelest tax systems in the country.

Taxes on most property, for example, are exceptionally low. In 2019, property taxes accounted for just 7 percent of state and local revenue, the lowest among the states. (Even Mississippi, which also has low property taxes, got roughly 12 percent from property taxes. New Jersey, by contrast, got 29 percent.) Strapped for cash, all levels of government look for money anywhere they can get it. And often, that means creating revenue from fines and fees. A 2016 studyshowed that the median assessment for a felony in Alabama doubled between 1995 and 2005, to $2,000.

How did this unjust system take root?

In 1874, less than a decade into Reconstruction, the Democratic Party, representing the landowning, formerly slave-owning class, took over the state government in a rigged election and quickly passed a new Constitution that mandated taxes on property would remain permanently low.

In the next couple of decades, as cotton prices crashed, poor sharecroppers, both white and Black, banded together in a populist movement to unseat the elites who controlled the state. In response, in another set of contested elections, the elites called another constitutional convention to further consolidate their power over the state. “What is it that we want to do?” the convention president, John B. Knox, asked. “Establish white supremacy in this state.” But this time, he said, they wanted to “establish it by law — not by force or fraud.”

People like Knox weren’t just racist; they were virulently classist, too, and hoped to exclude all poor people from the political process. The result of the 1901 Constitution was the mass disenfranchisement and subjugation of poor people — white and Black. The Constitution established the basis for a literacy test, a poll tax and stringent residency requirements. By 1943, according to the Alabama Policy Institute, an estimated 520,000 Black people and 600,000 white people had been disqualified from voting by different aspects of the 1901 Constitution. “In most counties more whites were disenfranchised than registered,” the historian Wayne Flynt writes in his authoritative book “Alabama in the Twentieth Century,” “limiting the vote to a select elite.”

This system of minority rule starved public administration in the name of small government. The result was a “government of, by and for special interests,” writes Mr. Flynt. “The citizens of Alabama did not control their government. Trial lawyers, the Business Council of Alabama, ALFA, A.E.A. and their cohorts did.” And this government went about protecting the property owned by some of the wealthiest families and businesses in the state from any meaningful taxation. In 1920, property taxes accounted for 63 percent of state revenue, but by 1978, it was down to a measly 3.6 percent. In 1992, it was below 2 percent, he writes.

Alabama is an “internal colony,” controlled by out-of-state corporations and an elite, with no interest in change, progress, equality, or justice.

Sounds un-American to me.

Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida, has pushed policies that are driving teachers out of their profession. He knows exactly what he is doing. He favors charter schools and voucher schools, where teachers have no job security, no pensions.

Teachers are leaving public schools. They are quitting. DeSantis is getting what he wants.

BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) (Copyright © 2022 MetroDesk Media, LLC) — The Palm Beach County School District appears to be in desperate need of teachers as the new school year gets underway. The first day of school for students is August 10th. Several teachers tell BocaNewsNow.com that they — and their colleagues — are leaving their long-held positions due to what they call the politicization of teaching by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

“From ’Don’t Say Gay’ to other bizarre positions,” said one teacher who asked not be identified, ”teaching is no longer teaching. It’s politics. Politics should have no place in the classroom, unless it’s actually a class about politics.”

“We have elementary school students who have same-sex parents,” said another teacher at a Palm Beach County elementary school. ”Are we really not allowed to acknowledge that? If we get fired, we lose benefits. If we resign now, we get what we have. This is why so many teachers are leaving. The Governor got it wrong.”

While the school district has been transmitting email blasts — and taking to social media — to promote job fairs and open positions, a check of the actual ”help wanted” website reveals just how dire the situation appears to be. As of noon on July 31st, 2022, a search of the word ”teacher” on the official Palm Beach County School District employment website yielded 1,784 jobs. While we did not review each and every listing, a spot check of several listings suggests that the openings are real. They range from full-time gifted to part-time continuing education. They range from Eagles Landing Middle School in Boca Raton to schools in all parts of the county.

It’s not just teachers. Transportation Services is also in need of bus drivers. The need is so great that the school district is offering a $1000 signing bonus to new transportation department employees.

Governor Kevin Stitt played fast and loose with federal COVID relief funds. He tried to convert them to vouchers, which was not their purpose. Although the federal government was slipshod in handing out Payroll Protection Program (PPP) billions, it paid attention to misuse of state relief funds.

U.S. Department of Education auditors recommended clawing back more than $650,000 in misspent federal coronavirus relief funds from Gov. Kevin Stitt and reviewing an additional $5.5 million in purchases, according to a federal audit released Tuesday.

The questioned spending came from Stitt’s Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet program, which gave $1,500 grants to low-income families for educational purchases like computers and school supplies during the pandemic.

Auditors pinpointed questionable expenditures like arcade games, Christmas trees, smart watches, sofas, televisions and refrigerators totaling $652,720. The extraneous items made up more than 10% of all purchases. The $5.5 million is the total of purchases the auditors did not analyze and could contain unauthorized items.

The tally of noneducational items families purchased with program funds was higher than previously reported in a joint investigation The Frontier and Oklahoma Watch published in May.

The auditors also found poor record keeping for another relief program managed by ClassWallet called Stay in School. The program distributed tuition grants for up to $6,500 to students already attending private schools during the pandemic.

Auditors also found Oklahoma failed to follow federal guidelines for four of Stitt’s five educational relief programs, the report shows.

State officials gave the Florida-based company ClassWallet a no-bid contract to administer the Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet program and distribute grants to families.

Oklahoma could not provide supporting documentation that students who received grants were actually enrolled and registered at private schools, according to the audit.

Keep reading for more details.

CNN posted an important article about two billionaires in Texas who are spending heavily to push state politics to the extreme right fringes on social issues. Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks despise gays, love guns, and preach a version of Christianity that is suffused with hate, not love or charity or kindness. Above all, they aim to destroy public education, which they see as the root of America’s cultural decline.

If you read one article today, make it this one. It explains the drive for vouchers for religious schools. What Dunn and Wilks want is not “choice,” but indoctrination into their selfish, bumigored world view.

CNN’s investigative team writes:

Gun owners allowed to carry handguns without permits or training. Parents of transgender children facing investigation by state officials. Women forced to drive hours out-of-state to access abortion.

This is Texas now: While the Lone Star State has long been a bastion of Republican politics, new laws and policies have taken Texas further to the right in recent years than it has been in decades.

Elected officials and political observers in the state say a major factor in the transformation can be traced back to West Texas. Two billionaire oil and fracking magnates from the region, Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks, have quietly bankrolled some of Texas’ most far-right political candidates — helping reshape the state’s Republican Party in their worldview…

Critics, and even some former associates, say that Dunn and Wilks demand loyalty from the candidates they back, punishing even deeply conservative legislators who cross them by bankrolling primary challengers. Kel Seliger, a longtime Republican state senator from Amarillo who has clashed with the billionaires, said their influence has made Austin feel a little like Moscow.

“It is a Russian-style oligarchy, pure and simple,” Seliger said. “Really, really wealthy people who are willing to spend a lot of money to get policy made the way they want it — and they get it…”

Former associates of Dunn and Wilks who spoke to CNN said the billionaires are both especially focused on education issues, and their ultimate goal is to replace public education with private, Christian schooling. Wilks is a pastor at the church his father founded, and Dunn preaches at the church his family attends. In their sermons, they paint a picture of a nation under siege from liberal ideas…

Dunn and Wilks have been less successful in the 2022 primary elections than in past years: Almost all of the GOP legislative incumbents opposed by Defend Texas Liberty, a political action committee primarily funded by the duo, won their primaries this spring, and the group spent millions of dollars supporting a far-right opponent to Gov. Greg Abbott who lost by a wide margin.

But experts say the billionaires’ recent struggles are in part a symptom of their past success: Many of the candidates they’re challenging from the right, from Abbott down, have embraced more and more conservative positions, on issues from transgender rights to guns to voting.

“They dragged all the moderate candidates to the hard right in order to keep from losing,” said Bud Kennedy, a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper who’s covered 18 sessions of the Texas legislature…

People who’ve worked with Wilks and Dunn say they share an ultimate goal: replacing much of public education in Texas with private Christian schools. Now, educators and students are feeling the impact of that conservative ideology on the state’s school system.

Dorothy Burton, a former GOP activist and religious scholar, joined Farris Wilks on a 2015 Christian speaking tour organized by his brother-in-law and said she spoke at events he attended. She described the fracking magnate as “very quiet” but approachable: “You would look at him and you would never think that he was a billionaire,” she said.

But Burton said that after a year of hearing Wilks’ ideology on the speaking circuit, she became disillusioned by the single-mindedness of his conservatism.

“The goal is to tear up, tear down public education to nothing and rebuild it,” she said of Wilks. “And rebuild it the way God intended education to be.”

In sermons, Dunn and Wilks have advocated for religious influence in schooling. “When the Bible plainly teaches one thing and our culture teaches another, what do our children need to know what to do?” Wilks asks in one sermon from 2013.

Dunn, Wilks and the groups and politicians they both fund have been raising alarms about liberal ideas in the classroom, targeting teachers and school administrators they see as too progressive. The billionaires have especially focused on critical race theory, in what critics see as an attempt to use it as a scapegoat to break voters’ trust in public schooling.

In the summer of 2020, James Whitfield, the first Black principal of the mostly White Colleyville Heritage High School in the Dallas suburbs, penned a heartfelt, early-morning email in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, encouraging his school to “not grow weary in the battle against systemic racism.”

The backlash came months later. Stetson Clark, a former school board candidate whose campaign had been backed by a group that received its largest donations from Dunn and organizations he funded, accused Whitfield during a school board meeting last year of “encouraging all members of our community to become revolutionaries” and “encouraging the destruction and disruption of our district.” The board placed Whitfield on leave, and later voted not to renew his contract. He agreed to resign after coming to a settlement with the district. Clark did not respond to a request for comment.

Whitfield said he saw the rhetoric pushed by Dunn and Wilks as a major cause of his being pushed out.

“They want to disrupt and destroy public schools, because they would much rather have schools that are faith-based,” Whitfield said. “We know what has happened over the course of history in our country, and if we can’t teach that, then what do you want me to do?”

Meanwhile, the legislature has also been taking on the discussion of race in classrooms, passing a bill last year that bans schools from making teachers “discuss a widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.” The legislation was designed to keep critical race theory out of the classroom, according to Abbott, who signed the bill into law.

Some of the co-authors and sponsors of the bill and previous versions of the legislation received significant funding from Dunn and Wilks.

The billionaires “want to destroy the public school system as we know it and, in its place, see more home-schooling and more private Christian schools,” said Deuell, the former senator.

By the power of their money, these two billionaires are reshaping public policy in Texas to make it as narrow-minded and bigoted as they are. Their reactionary vision will indoctrinate students and crush the freedom to teach and the freedom to learn.

If you live in Texas, vote for Beto O’Rourke for Governor, Mike Collier for Lt. Governor, and for legislators who support public schools.

Georgina Cecilia Perez is an elected member of the Texas State Board of Education. She is a new member of the board of the Network for Public Education. She writes in this post about the damage that charters are doing to public schools.

Charters in Texas do not outperform public schools. Most are far worse than public schools. They keep expanding not because of demand but because the law allows a charter to multiply without getting additional approvals from the state or local districts. and that’s the way the dreadful Governor and Lt. Governor like it.

Perez writes:

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.null

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.

Robert Hubbell is a blogger who always has interesting things to say. In this post, he excoriates Joe Manchin for destroying Biden’s ambitious domestic agenda. And he urges Biden to fire Merrick Garland for his unwillingness to open a case against Trump for attempting a coup.