Monday, August 25, 2008

The Texas Education Market Speaks. Is The Legislature Listening?

Nearly 17,000 Texas School Children Denied Education Opportunity

A recent study by the Texas Public Policy Foundation found that the the 215 Texas charter schools, state-funded public schools with fewer regulatory restrictions than normal public schools, can only serve 87% of the demand for charter schools. There are currently 113,760 students enrolled in charter schools and at least 16,810 on wait lists.

Furthermore, Texas charter schools serve a disproportionately minority and poorer population. According to the report:

Eighty-one percent of students in Texas charter schools are minorities compared to 60 percent of students in traditional Texas public schools. In addition, more than 60 percent of students in Texas charter schools are economically-disadvantaged compared to 56 percent in traditional Texas public schools.
The Texas legislature has set a cap on the number of charter schools that can operate in the state at 215 (currently there are 196 operating charter schools and 210 active charters), up from only 20 charter schools allowed when the program first started 13 years ago.

This cap could be a deterrent to other companies in the business of running charter schools from entering the Texas education market. Given the fact that charter schools cost the taxpayers, on average, $1500 less per student than normal public schools, why wouldn't the state legislature be more interested in eliminating the cap and allowing more robust competition?



Anonymous said...

Travis: I'm wondering about the statistics- how can 60% be minority students?

Honestly, I'm shocked that 87% of the charter school market is being served. I think that if you proposed to parents that they could have a publicly funded school that was more flexible, efficient and creative, that could be more tailored to the vocational needs of non-college-bound students, that could more easily accomodate those students who would like to work as a part of their education, to those students whose family situations demand flexibility (and not just elite athletes, for example), I think that the demand for charter schools would suddenly go way up.

Anonymous said...

Barbara is right. The demand for charter schools *would* go up, but I suspect there is some latent demand that is not being measured or met.

We looked into charter schools and there are some in Austin that have some appeal, but they are not located in northwest Austin. RRISD and a few private schools.
So we are not counted in that 'demand', but if there was one in our area, we might transfer our kids in RRISD and in private school. The nearest school, Horizon, is in northeast Austin. Texas Empowerment Academy is in east Austin. I can see why 60% are minority. For one, the charter schools are mostly located in urban areas. They have been a powerful escape hatch for parents looking for better options for education for their kids. Along the way, these options have made living in cities more bearable for parents and thus have improved city life.

We should encourage more charter schools in all areas of the state, and we should have true school choice by giving the state funds for education direct to the parents. That way, the 40-50% diverted for administration overhead of large ISDs wont be wasted.

Randy A. Samuelson said...

It looks like the cap for the number of charter schools should be raised so the free market can function better.

I imagine a schools that are governed by entreprenuers that are constantly innovating teaching styles and utilizing the best technology available to motivate children, in much the same way that Sylvan Learning Center does.

Teachers teach kids best, not administrators and bureaucrats. If raising the cap on the number of charters schools will allow more kids to attend and improve their education over the state-run day care system operated by TEA, then let's make it happen.

Anonymous said...

Last year I did some background research for an issue that related to parental control in education. What I found was that the charter elementary school run by UT in East Austin has a waiting list, and another one that tailors its programs to the needs of all kinds of special situations (from elite athletes to children with handicaps). In the course of my inquiries, I encountered considerable hostility to charter schools. When I said, look, this elementary school is doing very well for the kids it serves, that was countered with "They get extra money!" I had to dig further to find out that the teachers and administrators of the school had more latitude and were not tied to union work rules. They could run the school for less $$ per student, and have a waiting list. No wonder the unions are threatened.