Despite overwhelming evidence that parents support and students benefit from charter schools, some municipalities across Texas are blocking efforts to open new schools and expand services.  The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Next Generation Texas Policy Director Emily Sass gave invited testimony last week before the Senate Education Committee highlighting these misguided attempts by cities to create barriers for charter schools and spoke up in defense of SB 28 which would add clarity to the proper role of municipalities in approving open-enrollment charter schools. Yesterday, the bill passed the Senate Education committee and is now awaiting consideration by the full Senate.

“Charter schools undergo a rigorous process to obtain initial authorization to operate in Texas, involving hundreds of pages of application material; a technical review; an external review; an internal agency review; an in-depth interview before the commissioner of education, TEA staff, and State Board of Education (SBOE) members; and a potential SBOE vote to reject a charter even after the commissioner has declared a decision to approve it,” said Sass.

“However, receiving a charter or permission to expand services means little if the operator cannot open their doors. Charter operators across the state have reported new barriers to their operation—obstruction from municipal administrations. This has in some cases forced charters to give up plans for an intended campus, move to another site, or delay adding grades or opening new campuses for a school year. Indeed, some ISD officials have encouraged this behavior by calling for cities to enact moratoria on charters within their jurisdictions or protesting publicly against their existence.

“SB 28 would provide that clarity by expanding the applicable language in the Education Code, stipulating that cities cannot adopt policies intended to prevent charter districts from operating on equal terms with other districts, and adding charter school terminology to the applicable sections of the Local Government Code. Notably, it calls for no special treatment or favoritism; it merely establishes equal treatment of Texas public schools. It would also ensure that the SBOE’s final veto is deployed under clear causes of concern shared by two thirds of the SBOE membership, and give the SBOE an earlier role in the charter approval process by creating an appeals process for eligible charter applicants.”