Here is my written testimony on Tuesday, 3/31/o9, for the Senate Charter School Expansion Bill.
SB 308 Testimony
Chairman Shapiro and members of the Senate Education Committee, thank you for this opportunity to testify. I am Bob Schoolfield, volunteer and founder of Let’s Choose Schools in Texas, a non-partisan grassroots organization committed to pursuing all avenues for increasing school choices. I am in favor of SB 308 because it will increase the number of charter schools. I wanted to point out some measures of excellence that many charter schools have achieved.
On the Texas Charter School Factsheet, the percentage of charter schools nationally in the top 1600 public schools is 4%, which is twice the percentage of charter schools among all public schools nationally, which is 2%. This is according to a US News and World report, Dec 2007.
On the Brooke Terry article, two of the top 100 public schools in the nation are Texas charter schools, IDEA Public Schools in the Rio Grande Valley and YES Prep Public Schools in Houston.
The percentage of Texas charter schools that rate exemplary is more than twice the percentage of exemplary traditional public schools. The percentage of charter schools missing the federal annual yearly progress targets is 25% less than the percentage of traditional public schools missing the targets.
Both articles indicate that charter schools have 35% more minority students than traditional public schools. So the claim that charter schools cream off the best students from traditional public schools is simply not true.
One advantage for charter schools is that they can specialize in a particular category of students. Three charter school specializations are
1. elementary schools that have longer school hours,
2. college preparatory schools for minority students, and
3. schools specializing in dropout recovery programs.
The current waiting list of 17,000 students is shortchanging those students, which are primarily minority.
Some of the opponents to removing the cap want to limit the number of charter schools because, they say, that they fear allowing more failing charter schools. Actually, the opposite is true. More charter schools means that bad charter schools will be weeded out sooner. With more suppliers, students will be able to more freely change schools. This means that charter schools are more likely to fail for a lack of customers, than for being ruled academically unacceptable.
When bad schools fail, it is a good thing. It eliminates an ineffective school. Unfortunately, failing ISD schools can’t fail and close. They are like zombies that are already dead, but can’t be put to rest. Accountability to parents, who have the ability to leave, is much more effective than accountability to the TEA, SBOE, or legislature.