You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Mercer: Letter to Texas Legislature about SBOE, charter school funding


I am greatly concerned with false information regarding the Texas State Board of Education and the choice provided by public charter schools to inner city families.

With the 2017 legislative session, powerful “anti-charter” lobby groups are attacking the SBOE for both the “inner-city school choice” provided by charter schools, and the administration of the Permanent School Fund (PSF) Bond Guarantee Program including the refinancing of bonds for highly qualified charters.

My perspective is that of the only elected state official who is both a current member of the $33 billion Permanent School Fund Committee, and a previous chair of what is often termed the SBOE “Charter School Committee.”

First, as chair, I championed the first dual language Hebrew-English and trilingual Mandarin Chinese-Spanish-English public charter schools in Texas, along with ushering in highly qualified and competitive out–of-state charter operations. All this while fighting to keep Common Core out of our public charter schools.

I am proud we worked with the Texas Legislature to grant the commissioner of education authority to close low-performing charter schools. That authority was not granted for low-performing traditional public schools.

Anti-charter lobbyists cannot argue my measure for success: the current waiting list for seats in a Texas charter school is more than 141,000 students.

Second, the mission of the Permanent School Fund is twofold: To provide free educational materials for our 5.4 million school children, and to guarantee the bonds passed by the voters in our almost 1,300 independent school districts.

• In the last 10 years, the Permanent School Fund provided more than $8 billion to the legislative budget for the children of Texas. The SBOE approved $2.4 billion for the 2017-2018 state budget.

• The Permanent School Fund is leveraged “3X” (up to $99 billion) guaranteeing every school district the lowest possible bond interest rate. Even poorly financially rated districts enjoy this significant benefit. Permanent School Fund executives state the savings to Texas schools is over $110 million each year for the 25 years of a bond.

Anti-charter lobbyists oppose the SBOE considering one percent of the Permanent School Fund ($300 million) to guarantee the bonds of charter schools. Under the leadership of David Bradley (R-Beaumont), we created stringent rules and qualifying conditions for charters that are not applied to traditional public schools to ensure passage.

How stringent? Only 14 of the 183 charters were qualified to apply to refinance their bonds. The Texas Charter Schools Association states those 14 charters issued new and refinanced bonds and saving $10.5 million each year for 25 years – $250 million in savings to help recruit and retain highly qualified classroom educators.

Finally, opposition lobbyists fail to mention two severe limitations on charters:

• Charters do not have a tax base to fund public bonds.

• The Legislature “rewards” innovation and high performance — by allocating charters on average $1,400 less per child than traditional public schools.

I caution the 2017 Legislature – you will hear a lot of false information regarding education, charters and the SBOE. My two recommendations: Reject the agenda of well-financed groups promoting a failed system of increasing federal mandates and control, and trust parents – whose only agenda is a great education and a safe school for their precious children.

Mercer is a former Texas Representative and current member of the Texas State Board of Education.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Are Illinois and Puerto Rico our future?

If Gov. Bruce Rauner and his legislature in Springfield do not put a budget together by today, the Land of Lincoln will be the first state in the Union to see its debt plunge into junk-bond status. Illinois has $14.5 billion in overdue bills, $130 billion in unfunded pension obligations, and no budget. “We can’t manage our money,&rdquo...
COMMENTARY: The big Republican lies about health care

To succeed in gutting health coverage for millions of Americans, Senate Republican leaders need to get a series of lies accepted as truth. Journalists and other neutral arbiters must resist the temptation to report these lies as just a point of view. A lie is a lie. Lie One: Democrats and progressives are unwilling to work with Republicans...
Opinion: Opioids, a mass killer we’re meeting with a shrug

About as many Americans are expected to die this year of drug overdoses as died in the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. For more than 100 years, death rates have been dropping for Americans — but now, because of opioids, death rates are rising again. We as a nation are going backward, and drug overdoses are now the leading cause of...
Phillips: Austin ISD decisions need more transparency and independence
Phillips: Austin ISD decisions need more transparency and independence

Austin school trustees and Superintendent Paul Cruz repeatedly touted a bond package that would include only projects that were critical. Yet the $1 billion-plus package trustees approved Monday includes projects that weren’t deemed critical enough for a November ballot — even by the trustee’s hand-picked advisory board members. Several...
Letters to the editor: June 29, 2017
Letters to the editor: June 29, 2017

Re: June 26 article, “Fonda San Miguel chef shaped Austin’s food scene.” While house-hunting in Austin in 1981, my husband and I were directed to Fonda San Miguel for our first dinner in town. Throughout the years, its Sunday brunches became a favorite. Chef Miguel Ravago seemed to be always around. The passing of Chef Ravago brought...
More Stories