July 18, 2014

Editorial: Troubled Prime Prep Academy to lose its charter

The students are the ones who suffer when schools fail.

If the goal of Dallas Cowboys veteran Deion Sanders and his Prime Prep Academy co-founder, D.L. Wallace, was to make headlines, their foray into the school-choice movement has been wildly successful.

Unfortunately, much of the news Prime Prep has made since it opened its doors in 2012 has been bad, typified by this week’s announcement that the Texas Education Agency has moved to revoke its charter.

The school was built on good intentions: to combine competitive athletics with high academic standards and offer poor, inner-city kids a way out and a way up.

But good intentions can go astray.

In its short lifespan, Prime Prep has been the subject of multiple TEA investigations, among them a probe into failures to conduct background checks on employees.

Ending a stormy relationship with the University Interscholastic League, the school withdrew its participation in organized athletics in late 2012.

And the academy has been party to several lawsuits, the latest involving the school’s eviction from a church building it was leasing in east Fort Worth and another alleging thousands of dollars yet unpaid for work done by an air-conditioning company.

Then there are the allegations of financial impropriety, violations of Texas Education Code, complaints of a poor curriculum and the revocation of its federal school lunch program funding.

The turbulence has undoubtedly made life unpleasant for Sanders, who, despite his termination by school administrators, is the public face of the academy.

But it’s the nearly 500 students at the school’s two campuses who have really suffered.

The good news, if there is any, is that in this case the TEA process that governs the state’s charter schools appears to be working. Under Texas law, charter schools are subject to fewer regulations than other public schools but are held to high standards of fiscal and academic accountability — standards clearly not met by Prime Prep.

The school’s charter holder, Uplift Fort Worth, has until the end of July to appeal. But the school might be beyond saving.

Two years of Prime Prep headlines have been mostly bad PR for charter schools.

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