Education News

Charter Schools Lost In Lawsuit, Hope To Win In Legislature

In the latest lawsuit over Texas school funding, charter schools got their day in court. They didn't get the ruling they wanted earlier this month — but charter schools still hope to win in the state Legislature.


To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>

Charter schools receive public tax dollars just like traditional public schools. But they don’t have to run their schools exactly the same. They have more flexibility.

Still, charter schools want to be treated the same when it comes to money.

This is David Dunn with the Texas Charter Schools Association.

“School districts get a combined in state and local funds a little over $1,000 dollars per student for facilities. So we think the state should provide directly to charter schools $1,000 per student to cover the cost of facilities so they can pay the mortgage or pay the rent.”

Dunn estimates that would cost taxpayers $150 million dollars a year. Money for facilities was the first thing charter schools wanted in the recent school finance lawsuit.

The second thing was to remove the cap on the number of charter school operators. Dunn says the cap is arbitrary and doesn’t meet the demand.

“Imagine if you will Cowboy Stadium full to the brim standing room only of youngsters who want to attend a charter school in Texas.”

“Currently we have close to 5,000 students on our waiting list for this year that aren’t going to be able to go to YES.  And we can’t build buildings fast enough for all those kids”

That’s Mark DiBella chief operating officer for YES Prep a charter school group here in Houston.

In the trial DiBella testified how they raise 10 percent of the budget from private donations.

“It just means in order for us to grow, we can’t depend on the state to provide for us. We have to go out and raise money externally. It makes it very challenging, because every dollar we spend on operations is a dollar we’re not spending on instruction and internal initiatives.”

DiBella says they raise about $6 million a year – including a million dollars from their annual poker tournament.

Education researcher Julian Vasquez Heilig explains charter schools lost out in the lawsuit.

“One, the charter plaintiff had asked for more funding for facilities and other things. The other thing that charters were asking for was less oversight. Well, the judge in the case didn’t give them either. The judge in this first round said that those were issues better left up for the legislature.”

State Senator Dan Patrick — a Republican from Houston — filed a major bill this week for charter schools.

David Dunn with the Texas Charter Schools Association is thrilled.

“Senate Bill 2 as filed would eliminate the cap on charter schools, so that aspect of the lawsuit would go away. It does create facilities funding for charter schools. But based on our reading of the bill, it would provide about $150 dollars per student.”

At the same time, Dunn hopes the Texas Supreme Court will overrule the judge and side with charter schools in the next round of the lawsuit.

From the KUHF Education Desk, I’m Laura Isensee.

Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required