Charter School Facilities Funding: Put a Roof Over Their Heads

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Bobby Turner and Andre Agassi of Turner Agassi watch as a class takes place at KIPP Cevallos. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Students attend class at KIPP Cevallos, a local public charter school.

Bills being considered in the Texas Legislature’s special session may put a roof over the heads of more public charter school students.

This week, I visited my kids’ public charter school, Great Hearts Monte Vista South, for a meeting with the special education coordinator to talk about standardized testing and preparing my son for fifth grade. She mentioned that the fifth-grade classrooms were moving down the hall, swapping with the first-grade classrooms. It’s a trade-off, deciding who gets the larger classrooms: fifth-grade students have longer arms and legs (my son, F.T., is only 10 years old but already 5-foot-3), but the first graders are always in motion.

The problem is that the classrooms are just too small. The school is using rented space in a historic Jewish temple. It’s a beautiful building, and the landlords are gracious hosts, but the school has to make compromises every day. Storage space is nonexistent. Evening events need to be coordinated with the temple. There are thousands of prospective students on the waiting list, but no room for them in the building.

What would help? If the state Legislature allocated facilities funding to public charter schools, then Great Hearts Monte Vista South would be in a better position to look for a permanent campus and to open additional campuses. If high-performing public charter schools like Great Hearts, BASIS, KIPP, and IDEA can expand more quickly, they will be able to serve more students and more quickly boost the college-educated workforce in San Antonio. Recent data shows that public charter schools are working to get kids into college and to prepare them to graduate.

The legislature is the key to thousands of students getting roofs over their heads. The current situation in Texas is that independent school districts (ISDs) get facilities funding and public charter schools do not. Charter schools facilities funding was part of a school finance bill (House Bill 21) that failed at the last minute in the regular session.

Charter schools benefited in many ways during the 85th regular legislative session, but parents like me were disappointed about the outcome on facilities funding. But we may get a second chance in the special session.

Parents are watching several bills, particularly the companion bills for special-needs students, Senate Bill 2 and HB 253, and a school finance bill, HB 21.

San Antonio area charter school parents at the state capitol on April 26, 2017.

Courtesy / Inga Cotton

San Antonio area charter school parents at the state capitol on April 26, 2017.

Both SB 2 and HB 253 would provide tax-credit scholarships for special-needs students; the funds could be used for special-education programs at private schools.

The private school choice provisions are grabbing headlines, but the bills also provide millions of dollars in facilities funding for public schools – both traditional public schools and public charter schools. The Senate has already approved SB 2. Now, it’s up to the House to move on HB 253, which may happen in a matter of days.

In the House, HB 21 is a school finance bill with a cornucopia of provisions, including facilities funding for public charter schools. The bill made it out of the Public Education Committee and is now ready to be considered by the full House.

Parents of public school students, what can you do to help put a roof over more students’ heads? San Antonio is the hometown of two influential legislators, Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), vice chair of the House Public Education Committee, and House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio). Now is the time to speak up.

This flyer describes the impacts of House Bill 21.

Courtesy / Texas Association of School Administrators

This flyer describes the impacts of House Bill 21. Click to enlarge.


33 thoughts on “Charter School Facilities Funding: Put a Roof Over Their Heads

    • Our charter district accepts with no questions asked. All they knew about my child before he was accepted was his name and grade level. They didn’t know he had an IEP, they didn’t know he was considered Special Ed. After we got our spot, after being wait listed due to so many students applying, they learned of his issues and put together a great educational plan for him. His education has exploded. He know begs to go to school on a daily basis, even during the summer!

    • Public charter schools do accept all children. They just don’t have space for all who want to go. These bills could help alleviate that. Who do you think is not “accepted” ?

    • You have swallowed a common misconception. Public schools only accept those in their districts and a few from beyond those borders. Charters accept children from many districts according to space available. Going into our 5th year in charter school, I speak from actual experience.

    • Noting that public charters have to be open for all, and district schools like magnets actually restrict who can attend, you might want to check your premises…

    • Thank you for this succinct but informative piece. I will follow your lead and contact our legislators and let them know that I want public school funds for my children who are in a public charter school.

    • “Inga’s point of view is shared by thousands of parents in Texas who have chosen a charter school as a means of improving the quality of their children’s education. Yet, there is more that the state of Texas can do to support the aspirations of these parents for their children’s education. The additional financial support that Inga refers to and that public charter schools should receive, would go a long way in creating an equitable educational opportunity for their children.” What parent does not want the best education possible for their child?

    • Isn’t this just another example of living in a free market capitalist society? Sounds like a BBB issue that Ohio needs to resolve

  1. We were wait listed for several different charter schools for years. Imagine knowing a program is the best fit for your student, but that you are wait listed and most likely won’t get in. We finally got the call that we were up on the list between 8th and 9th grade. Our new school has made a massive difference in our students education. He begs to go to school, even during the summer. He isn’t slipping through the cracks and knows he will go to college (his previous school kept telling us that he wouldn’t be able to go).
    Our school added 8 classrooms this year and those still are not enough to clear the waiting list. Equal funding would allow our schools to expand and hopefully clear the waiting list.

  2. Giving high performing charter schools facility funding, which would help them to add new campuses and serve more students, can only improve our city as a whole.

  3. Thank you for fighting for our children. They are our future- one day our lives, our investments/money, our businesses will be in their hands. It’s in our beat interest to invest in their education now.

  4. As a taxpayer and citizen of Texas, I want my childen’s public school equally funded. Charter schools are succeeding, and that success shouldn’t be ignored!

  5. Our charter accepted all of my children, two of which had special needs. The only information they had prior to acceptance was name and age. They have received the same care, attention and quality education as every other student in addition to having their needs addressed with professionalism, caring and compassion. Our school is incredibly diverse. My children are exposed to different cultures, races, religions socio-economic differences every single day. Far, far more than they would from our local ISD. I wish all parents had the option of sending their children to our amazing school, we aren’t an exclusive club nor do we aim to be. If we had facilities and funding we could welcome any child who wanted to be a part of our fabulous family of students, parents and faculty.

  6. My daughter attends a charter school in SA. As a former educator I was very impressed with everything her school has to offer. If this funding bill passed then we would have the money to pay for our own facility which would hopefully include a school gym, library, and playground for the students to enjoy.

  7. My daughter attends an excellent Charter school with a huge waiting list. Her school has excellent academics for children of all abilities and incomes. They emphasize a well rounded child, and values/morals are expected. Just imagine what great work they could do if they had an actual campus with a library, cafeteria, science labs, locker rooms, etc…

  8. This bill will greatly impact our children’s charter school. There is such a long waiting list and having more space could alleviate that situation and allow our wonderful charter school to service a greater population of students.

  9. So let’s just ignore the reasons and the problems why parents don’t send their children to public schools in the first place? I would love to know what school the author’s children are zoned to and why she does not send them there? Don’t tell me that charter schools have better teachers, because charters have a higher teacher turnover rate compared to public educators. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and look at the culture of the community and social economic status of a public school and see how it relates to scores and education.

  10. It was my understanding that local school
    Districts provided the bulk of the money for their facilities with bond projects. Since charter schools have no taxing authority, they are unable to do that.

    I am somewhat wary of providing such funds for facilities to charter schools. Public schools at least must be accountable to the school board, the administration, and taxpayers. Most of their construction designs, plans, and processes are available to the public. What safeguards for transparency would there be should the Legislature allocate facility funds for charter schools?

  11. These are public schools that accept all children and are accountable to educating them. They should be adequately funded!

  12. Informative article. Hoping these bills pass and successful charter schools receive funding for facilities, etc. Helping our young Texans succeed is so vital, and equal funding is truly doing the right thing.

  13. Any funding for any school should be supported. This is our future. Options are important. My child attends GHMVN because she needed a special educational environment, which only a place like GH could provide. We are thankful to have choices.

  14. This is a great article! I think we all should be on the same page with our vision of supporting public charter schools. If we all stand together and use our voice consistently, all that we do will definitely pay off and our schools will get the funding it deserves. One day, one step at a time..we’re getting there. Our kid’s futures depend on what we do now.

  15. What I see in my children’s charter school is the existence of inclusion. There are children from all areas around SA. At first, I was afraid but their curriculum got my attention. Advance classes for all the students, the teaching of values, moral and virtude have maintained my children doing positive decisions. They know about the world outside but they understand the value that education has and he respect to others.
    This charter school (Great Hearts Monte Vista North) needs more founds because they are public, they are not private, they accept everyone in the order they apply. Sadly, they do not have a big building and they are limited in space to include more students but the school has a long waiting list. We were lucky because my children are part of the first generation of students. Every day my husband and I transport my children from the South of SA because they love their school, teachers and peers. I have friends waiting for a spot for their children and I have others which children attend other great charters such as a KIPP and IDEA. Please, let’s support the Charters that are giving results! Finally, I want to mention that I have observed how districts like Harlandale ISD are trying to improve because they know how Charters are taking a step forward in education because they know every child needs equal opportunities and the best education.

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