Charter Schools Step Up to Help Schoolkids: Texas Needs More of That

The Latest Tactic: Use Zoning Boards, Planning Commissions & City Councils to suffocate new charter schools

By Starlee Coleman

AUSTIN, Texas (Texas Insider Report) — It’s never been more clear that parents need greater control over their children’s education. The pandemic revealed that many school districts can’t or won’t meet the needs of families.

When many students desperately needed to attend school in person, we saw campuses lock their doors. Moms and dads asking for flexible schedules, instruction grounded in the classics, and more rigorous classes are being ignored. 

Public charter schools are stepping in to fill the gaps. These tuition-free schools, open to all, are unshackled from the bureaucracy of traditional school districts.

Enrollment at public charter schools increased during the pandemic as parents looked for the creativity and flexibility they offer. But 55,000 students are still stuck on waiting lists.

Cities in Texas should be rolling out the red carpet for high-quality charter schools. Instead, many are doing the bidding of special interest groups – including school district officials who want to stamp out any possible competition, regardless of what parents might say.

Their latest tactic: demanding that zoning boards, planning commissions, and city councils suffocate any construction of a new charter school campus.

In one case, a charter school was forced to spend $400,000 on water pipes for homes in the area just to obtain a building permit.

In another instance, local officials made a charter school re-do its traffic and engineering studies over and over before finally requiring the school to purchase additional land at the whopping cost of $1.4 million in taxpayer money. It took three years to open a school that parents overwhelmingly wanted.

The good news is, our lawmakers have a chance to fix this. But it’s going to be a fight.

A bill that would have curbed these abuses by city governments narrowly failed on the House floor this month. But a second version of the legislation, Senate Bill 487, recently passed the Senate and is scheduled for the House floor on Monday.

So we have one more shot – if we can win one more showdown.
  Texans rightfully take pride in supporting freedom for themselves and their families. It’s essential that we ask our elected officials to do the same.

We need to call on them to show political courage. To say “no” when special interests ask them to do their bidding.

Children are counting on it.

Starlee Coleman is CEO of the Texas Public Charter Schools Association.