As Texas land commissioner, a former teacher and, most important, a parent, I understand that nothing we do today matters more for tomorrow than education.
We are training the future leaders of our state, and we need to do it right.
Public charter schools help close the achievement gap in our inner-city schools.
I witnessed first-hand the hurdles public charter schools face each day while serving on the board of Uplift Education, a public charter school organization in Fort Worth.
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Today, as commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, I oversee land and mineral rights that earned more than $1.2 billion for the state’s Permanent School Fund last year.
I am using that platform in Austin to encourage even more education reform in our state, because Texas needs more school choice.
In September I helped Austin Achieve, a charter school serving children in east Austin, celebrate opening its new campus.
Founded in 2012 at Greater Calvary Bible Church, Austin Achieve had 125 sixth-graders. The school grew by one grade every year and now serves students in grades 6-9.
The success of Austin Achieve shows that when we give families a choice, we give students a chance — at a better education, a better life and a better future.
Last legislative session, I worked with Texas lawmakers to give public charter schools greater access to the $38 billion Permanent School Fund’s bond capacity.
Currently, charter schools may access only the portion not being used by conventional school districts through the PSF bond guarantee program, providing less than 10 percent of charter operators access to this tool.
If passed, the legislation would have allowed public charter schools to access the total capacity of the PSF bond, bringing the amount available to $2.46 billion from $790 million.
This would have saved charter schools more than $6.5 million annually without any state cost.
The State Board of Education recently acted to allow public charters access to an additional $250 million to back their bonds through the program. However, charter schools cannot access this bond backing until next fiscal year.
The SBOE will vote soon on a proposal to allow charter schools immediate access, thus enabling charter schools to grow and succeed in real time instead of waiting until the financing is available.
I applaud the SBOE for its efforts to give public charters room to grow until the Legislature reconvenes in 2017.
If children are trapped in a school that isn’t serving their needs, we should give them options. There are 105,000 families waiting to get into Texas charter schools.
Expanding the PSF allotment provides public charters more opportunity to grow and gives Texas families more choices to educate their children.
Our education system is stuck in a monolithic “one size fits all” approach from the last century. We need more school choice, now more than ever, to reward innovative schools embracing disruptive technologies and empowering entrepreneurship.
Too many children are struggling in failing schools. Our children deserve a chance. As parents and guardians, you deserve a choice.
George P. Bush is the commissioner of the Texas General Land Office.