More than 200,000 students attend charter schools in Texas, with another 101,000 on a waiting list.
Partly because of that growing demand, the Legislature this year raised the cap on the number of charters in the state from 215 to 305.
But in making the adjustment to accommodate the wishes of charter advocates, lawmakers also included in the legislation stricter accountability standards and gave more authority to the education commissioner to revoke the charters of poor-performing schools.
An example of that tougher oversight came this week when the Texas Education Agency recommended revocation of six open-enrollment charter schools, each having met the legislative criteria for mandatory annulment of their charters.
The new legislation “requires mandatory revocation of a charter by the Commissioner of Education if a charter holder has failed to meet academic or financial accountability performance ratings for the three preceding school years,” the TEA explained in a news release.
Among the schools recommended for revocation effective June 30, 2014, is the Honors Academy in Farmers Branch. Others on the list include three in the Houston area and one each in Austin and Tyler.
A conservator will be appointed to each school, the TEA said, to oversee financial management and governance, attend board meetings to help address findings in a final report, and oversee the closeout of the school. The charters can ask for an informal review, and if revocation is upheld, the case would be sent to the State Office of Administrative Hearings for a final hearing. There is no appeal after that.
Charter schools are now very much a part of the Texas education system, with more and more parents opting to send their children to one of these campuses instead of a traditional public school.
Although they have more flexibility than other public schools in how they operate, that does not mean they should have less accountability.
The Legislature and the public must insist that, as charter schools continue to grow, there is in place a rigorous process for granting new charters, and there will be contined rigorous oversight.