Saturday, April 6, 2013

Texas Bill To Centrailze Charter School Governance

Texas State Senator Dan Patrick of Houston proposed a bill that seeks to centralize charter schools governance placing authority in a newly created state board.

SB 2 may face a floor vote in the near future. It is currently on the intent calendar for Monday April 8, 2013. The lengthy bill seeks several reforms to charter schools. Among those reforms is the establishment of a Charter School Authorizing Authority (CSAA).

The CSAA will assume responsibilities and authorities that were held by the State Board of Education (SBOE). The SBOE is a governing body of 15 elected offcials. The CSAA would be a 7 member board of appointees.

This raises some questions concerning the autonomy of charter schools and parental voices in the governing process. Appointees are not subject to the direct views of the voters or parents. While such a governing body may seek to lessen the whims of the political environment upon charter schools, it instead places them at the mercy of appointed bureaucrats.

SECTION 3.  Chapter 12, Education Code, is amended by adding Subchapter A-1 to read as follows: 
       Sec. 12.007.  ESTABLISHMENT; POWERS AND DUTIES. (a) The Charter School Authorizing Authority is established to oversee the operations of charter schools in accordance with this chapter, including: 
             (1)  granting charters for: 
                   (A)  open-enrollment charter schools under 
Subchapter D; and 
                   (B)  college or university or junior college 
charter schools under Subchapter E; 
             (2)  revoking charters and imposing other sanctions in accordance with Subchapters B, D, and E; and 
             (3)  monitoring charter holders of open-enrollment charter schools under Subchapter D. 
       (b)  The authority shall adopt rules as required by this chapter and may adopt other rules as authorized by this chapter. 
       Sec. 12.0071.  COMPOSITION. The authority is composed of seven members appointed as follows: 
             (1)  four members appointed by the governor, one of whom must be appointed from a list of candidates submitted to the governor by the speaker of the house of representatives; 
             (2)  one member appointed by the lieutenant governor; 
             (3)  one member appointed by the chair of the State Board of Education; and 
             (4)  one member appointed by the commissioner. 
       Sec. 12.0072.  ELIGIBILITY FOR APPOINTMENT. To be eligible to be appointed as a member of the authority, a person must have demonstrated expertise in at least one of the following: 
             (1)  public or nonprofit governance; 
             (2)  management and finance; 
             (3)  public charter school leadership; 
             (4)  school assessment, curriculum, and instruction; or 
             (5)  public school law. 
       Sec. 12.0073.  TERMS; VACANCY. (a) The members of the authority serve staggered four-year terms, with the terms of either three or four members expiring February 1 of each odd-numbered year.
       (b)  A vacancy on the authority shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment for that position. 
       (c)  Notwithstanding Subsection (a), the initial members appointed shall determine by lot which three of the seven initial members will serve terms that expire February 1, 2015, and which four of the seven initial members will serve terms that expire February 1, 2017. This subsection expires January 1, 2018. 
       Sec. 12.0074.  PRESIDING OFFICER. The governor shall designate a member of the authority as the presiding officer of the authority to serve in that capacity at the pleasure of the governor. 
       Sec. 12.0075.  MEETINGS. The authority shall meet at the call of: 
             (1)  the presiding officer; or
             (2)  at least four members. 
       Sec. 12.0076.  REIMBURSEMENT. A member of the authority is not entitled to compensation for service as a member of the authority but is entitled to reimbursement for actual and necessary expenses incurred in performing functions as an authority member, as provided in the General Appropriations Act.

       Sec. 12.0077.  SEPARATION OF AUTHORITY AND AGENCY RESPONSIBILITIES. The authority shall, in coordination with the agency, develop and implement policies that clearly separate the
policymaking responsibilities of the authority and the management responsibilities of the agency.

Patrick is one of the state's senators who is actively investigating CSCOPE, attempting to place the controversial program under government oversight. SBOE oversight of CSCOPE combined with transparency and parental choice is a needed reform. Patrick seems to favor placing CSCOPE under the auspices of the SBOE, an elected body. Program transparency would then enable parents a say in the program through petition and the ballot box at election time.

Dan Patrick's SB 1406 will, essentially, accomplish the above hopefully before CSCOPE can damage our children any further:

SECTION 1.  Subchapter B, Chapter 8, Education Code, is amended by adding Section 8.0531 to read as follows: 
       Sec. 8.0531.  STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION OVERSIGHT OF CURRICULUM-RELATED SERVICES AND PRODUCTS. (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter or Section 8.001(c), the State Board of Education shall maintain oversight and direction of the activities of a regional education service center, acting alone or in collaboration with one or more other regional education service centers, concerning: 
             (1)  any service or product related to student curriculum, or; 
             (2)  integration of instructional materials with curriculum management materials for delivery of instructional materials and related materials or aids to enable public access, including parental access, in accordance with Section 26.006.

Placing charter schools under a governing body separate from the SBOE could shield it from CSCOPE and other whims of the Texas Education Agency. However, the CSAA and the SBOE would both fall under the State Commissioner of Education.

However, too much government oversight in any industry is known to decrease productivity. In this case, the productivity is the educational development of our children. Parents should have a direct voice in how their children are being educated.

To counter this, the bill seeks to make it easier for areas to establish "home-rule" districts that should grant parents a more direct say in how their kids are educated at the local level.

SB 2 also enables charter schools to use educational facilities that are idle or under-used. The bill establishes a means for those publicly-owned facilities to be bought or leased by the charter schools within the district boundaries. Instead of sitting idle and sucking taxpayer dollars, they would be used to increase productivity. A facility being effectively utilized is much better than an underutilized (or unused) tax vacuum.

This increases the P3 (Public-Private Partnership) relationship between charter schools and the local communities. In doing so, it generates better opportunities and options for parents and students.

SECTION 1.  Subchapter D, Chapter 11, Education Code, is amended by adding Sections 11.1542 and 11.1543 to read as follows: 
       Sec. 11.1542.  OPEN-ENROLLMENT CHARTER SCHOOL OFFER FOR INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT FACILITY. (a) The commissioner shall by rule adopt a procedure and criteria for determining whether an independent school district facility or a portion of a district facility is unused or underutilized by the district. Each year, the commissioner shall, using the procedure and criteria adopted, identify for each district any district facility or any portion of a district facility that is unused or underutilized. Each year, the agency shall post on the agency's Internet website a list of each district's unused or underutilized facilities and portions of facilities. At the request of an open-enrollment charter school, a district shall provide to the charter school a list of unused and underutilized district facilities and portions of district facilities as identified by the commissioner.
       (b)  This subsection applies only to a school district facility or a portion of a district facility identified by the commissioner under Subsection (a) as being unused or underutilized by the district. If the charter holder of an open-enrollment charter school makes a written offer to a district to lease or purchase a district facility or a portion of a district facility identified as being unused or underutilized, the district shall enter into an agreement to lease or sell, as applicable, the facility or the portion of the facility to the charter holder for use by the open-enrollment charter school for classroom instruction. The price for the lease or sale must be $1.

What this bill does not do is increase parental rights for school choice. But it is a much needed step towards creating alternatives so those choices may be available in the future, should the state move to establish a school choice program.