Bob’s Testimony for Charter School Expansion Bill (SB 1830)

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Chairman Shapiro and members of the Senate Education Committee, thank you for this opportunity to testify in favor of SB 1830.  I am in favor of the bill because it also will increase the number of charter schools.
Providing classrooms and a school campus is the most difficult hurdle for every open-enrollment charter school.  Current charter contracts provide no funds dedicated to the purchase of classrooms.  SB 1830 provides two ways to help charter schools afford classrooms.  There is a third way that I hope will be added to the bill.
1.    The bill creates a new campus capacity allotment for open enrollment charters that are rated academically acceptable or above. Funds may only be used for operations and facilities.
2.    The bill provides a new motivation for ISDs to co-locate with charter schools.  Co-location is a fancy word for an ISD sharing unused facilities with a charter school.  ISDs currently have the authority to co-locate with charter schools and it is happening in Houston to some extent.  The bill allows ISDs to include the co-locating charter schools TAKS scores with their TAKS scores for the purpose of the TEA academic accountability rating for the ISD.
This would be a great help for charter schools.  Not only would it give them a way to obtain facilities for their schools, but also it would give the charter school more visibility in the community.The negative side of this provision is that it gives ISD schools another way to mask their true TAKS scores.  But the greater good is that it helps successful charter schools overcome their most difficult logistical problem and allow them to build on their successes.
3.    The third way of helping charter schools with facilities funding is the language found in HB 3051 by Rep. Rafael Anchia that I hope will be included in a committee substitute of SB 1830.  This bill allows the SBOE to grant extended charters of 25 years for open-enrollment charter schools, instead of only 10 years.
All open-enrollment charter schools typically receive an initial charter term of 5 years.  Some successful charter schools have had their charters renewed for a term of 10 years.  Neither of these terms gives a charter school the continuity needed to borrow funds for facilities from a bank.  If successful charter schools could obtain extended charters of 25 or 30 years, they would have sufficient continuity to obtain a loan for facilities.  I would suggest increasing the term to 30 years since this is the standard term for real estate loans.
Bob Schoolfield
bob@LetsChooseSchools.com
512-461-3126
http://www.LetsChooseSchools.com

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