The Truth About Charter Schools in Texas: TCSA's Response to "Killing Ed: The Film That Texas Doesn't Want You to See"

Note: In 2013, the director of this documentary contacted my office requesting an interview regarding education reform. Taking every opportunity to discuss the necessity for charter schools, I agreed. During the interview, the director turned to a line of questions not strictly pertaining to education. I find this approach disingenuous and misleading. I do not support this documentary even though the director used footage from the interview with me.

"Never let the truth get in the way of a good story," is a phrase you sometimes hear in Texas. Anna Clark's blog goes too far and takes direct aim at public charter schools in Texas with broad generalities and unfounded charges. I have spent my career in education policy and find it incumbent to address the factual inaccuracies concerning charter schools and education presented in Ms. Clark's blog.

Ms. Clark finds it unconscionable that Texans "look the other way as funds are diverted from our public education system, which is subject to locally-elected oversight and regulations to protect the public interest, in order to finance charter schools that further sub-par education..."

I find not completing your homework sub-par, particularly when dealing with education in Texas. Here are some facts to consider: Charter schools are public, tuition-free, open-enrollment, and innovative while held to strict financial and academic accountability standards. More specifically, charter schools must submit annual financial audits conducted by independent auditors to the Texas Education Agency and comply with federal financial standards. Further, Texas' accountability system is more rigorous for charter schools than their traditional school district counterparts, shutting down charter schools that fail to meet state financial and academic standards for three consecutive years.

Based on Ms. Clark's blog, she would have you believe that teachers at charter schools are not fit. Currently, teachers at public charter schools must be highly qualified, have a Bachelor's degree, and provide notice to parents of each teacher's qualifications. Additionally, teacher certification is required for special education and bilingual education.

Ms. Clark also cites that she sends her children to Catholic school, and I am glad she has this option. However, not everyone has the option to pay for private school--particularly the underserved populations that typically make up the student populations at charter schools. By and large, Texas public charter schools have higher proportions of economically disadvantaged, African American, and/or Hispanic, student populations, which are thriving as evidenced by student outcomes.

This is particularly the case at the campuses featured in Ms. Clark's blog and in the documentary. TCSA has had a strong working relationship with Harmony Public Schools for more than a decade and we support their mission to educate students and stand behind their record of academic performance focusing on college preparation and STEM areas. It is clear by their success that parents want their children to attend a Harmony campus which is why they also have the largest waiting list in Texas. Another fact to consider--Harmony Public Schools graduate hundreds of high schools students who are often the first in their family to attend college. Even in Texas, this is no tall tale.

We support providing parents with options in public education to best serve the needs of their child. Public charter schools serve nearly 228,000 students at 613 campuses across Texas. Additionally, there are nearly 130,000 students on waiting lists to attend a public charter school in Texas because the demand outpaces available seats. Parents elect to send their children to charter schools; no one coerces them and that's just the facts, M'am.