Charter school advocates are hoping two bills will cut in half what they have identified as a funding gap with traditional public schools.
With 247,236 students and more than 141,000 on waiting lists, advocates say charter schools across the state — which have $1,400 less in public money to spend per student than traditional school districts — are not providing students the resources they need, forcing campuses to dip into operational budgets to pay for construction and redevelopment projects. These costs are typically covered by state and local governments for traditional districts.
Senate Bill 457, authored by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, and House Bill 2337 would help put charter schools on par with their traditional public school counterparts by providing charter schools an additional $700 per student on average.
“Charter school students in Texas are treated as public school students in every regard including accountability and standards, except for their funding,” state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, said at a Capitol news conference Tuesday. “The value of quality education is too important for the child, their family and the state to leave these children waiting for classroom space in limbo.”
Last session, Campbell filed similar legislation, but it was not voted on by the Senate.
Despite that, advocates and legislators said Tuesday they are hopeful this session will be different, with both bills enjoying support from members of both parties and from urban and rural areas.
“Unlocking the genius in every child who shows up in our public school system is always a challenge, but I don’t think we ought to as a state make that challenge more difficult by paying more money for some students than others — it doesn’t make sense,” said state Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, one of the co-sponsors of HB 2337.
Priscilla Cavazos said at the news conference her son, who attends Nyos, an Austin charter school, has undergone multiple surgeries to improve his hearing, which would inhibit how well he can learn in a typical class setting. But Nyos staff and teachers have accommodated her son as much as possible.
“Every time he’s had surgery, his teacher she tells the students ‘Please, let’s be quiet, let’s tone everything down,’ and they take care of him for the first month or so,” Cavazos said. “Knowing that all the teachers are there looking out for him when I’m not there — it’s a blessing.”