Charter School Bill Means More Options For Parents And Students

Charter schools operate under a contract with the state. In Austin, lawmakers discussed expanding the number of charter schools allowed to operate in Texas.

Houston state Sen. Dan Patrick, who chairs the senate education committee, recently told a meeting of the Texas Charter Schools Association:

"We have 20 percent of our students today not graduating, and in our high risk minority schools...minority males, it's as high as 50 percent. But if you have 20 percent of students not graduating, and 20 percent today on a minimum degree which prepares them for nothing, that's 40 percent of students who are of graduation age, who are not prepared for a future in Texas."

Charter schools like KIPP Academy here in Houston, provide public education alternatives to low-income students and families that don't have the option of private education, or cannot move to a neighborhood with a higher performing public school.

David Dunn chairs the Texas Charter Schools Association. He says they've been pushing to increase the number of charter schools for some time.

"Charter schools provide parents and students more options, programs that are more tailored to meet the needs of individual students and clearly there is a demand. Four years ago, when we first came to the legislature, there was a waiting list of about 17,000 kids on charter school wait lists. That's grown to well over a 100,000."

The association currently represents more than 445 charter schools and legislation would also make it easier for authorities to shut down poor-performing charters. Dunn says studies have shown that they help boost educational achievement of their students.

"They're having their college signing day. They're [going to] have 10,000 kids signing a letter of intent to go to college, and they're being accepted into some of the finest colleges throughout the country and in Texas. So no question about it, you spend any time on campuses like Yes Prep or KIPP, and the excitement for learning, and for achieving at their best is just palpable."

The Texas House Public Education Committee gave the measure a thumbs for both chambers to discuss expanding charter schools.

There is no single definitive study that answers the question of how charter schools perform compared with traditional public schools, but educators do not dispute one finding that shows charter schools produce significant gains in both math and reading when compared with some traditional public schools.

To search rankings and grades for charter schools in the Houston region, click here.

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