AUSTIN – Tens of thousands of Texas school children will be locked out of the school that can best meet their needs once the State Board of Education hits the Texas Legislature’s cap on charter schools later this week.

“The State Board of Education has done what it can to promote competition and innovation in Texas public schools,” said Brooke Dollens Terry, education policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “But restrictions imposed by the Texas Legislature will deny tens of thousands of students the opportunity to enroll in their preferred public school.”

The Texas Legislature has capped the number of open-enrollment charters at 215, of which the State Board of Education has issued 209. The State Board of Education’s Committee on School Initiatives is expected to recommend the final six charters at its 1 p.m. meeting today, with the full board expected to approve those charters at its 9 a.m. meeting tomorrow. Both meetings will take place at the Texas Education Agency headquarters, located at 1701 N. Congress Avenue in Austin.

In August, the Foundation released a report, “Calculating the Demand for Charter Schools,” which compiled the first-ever, Texas-specific waiting list for charter school enrollment. The report concluded that while 89,156 students attended 355 open-enrollment charter school campuses during the 2007-08 academic year, at least 16,810 children were on waiting lists to attend a charter school – including 7,415 in the Houston area; 5,896 in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex; and 2,110 in the Rio Grande Valley.

“If this cap is not lifted, the waiting list will grow, preventing even more students from attending a public charter school,” Terry said.

Terry noted that charter schools are public schools that predominantly serve low-income and minority students who are behind academically upon entering the charter school.

“Many charter schools focus on students who have fallen through the cracks of the public school system,” she said. “Rather than writing these students off, we should increase the range of educational settings and options available to them so that they can receive the education they’ll need to be productive citizens.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin.

Brooke Dollens Terry is an education policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

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