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TCSA Letter to Texas Elected Officials Outlines Priorities for School Finance Reform Bills

April 2, 2019

The Texas Charter Schools Association has submitted a letter to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and members of the Texas House and Senate that outlines four key priorities for school finance reform as they work toward the final version of House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 4. TCSA firmly believes that all Texas children, regardless of race, income, or neighborhood, should have the chance to succeed academically and lead choice-filled lives. To achieve this goal for all students, including the 300,000 students currently attending public charter schools in Texas, the following four priorities have been identified and recommended to elected officials to support: 

  1. Support a level playing field. Keep it fair by ensuring that changes to the school finance formula provide proportionate benefit for public charter students and traditional public-school students. We should see a comparable average increase to per-pupil funding for all types of public schools, at both the base level and for students who share the same level of need.
  2. Maintain flexibility and creativity. Continue public charter school educators’ ability to cut through red tape and innovate to put the needs of students first. Public charter schools were designed to allow educators the room to be creative in exchange for greater accountability, a bargain that has allowed public charters to succeed and meet the needs of our individual students.

  3. Don’t reverse progress on charter school facilities funding. Unlike traditional public schools, public charter schools cannot levy taxes and receive no local taxpayer money for our facilities. To address this, in 2017 the Legislature created, for the first time, a $60 million fund for public charter school facilities, to be distributed on a per student basis to charters with good academic performance under Texas Education Agency (TEA) accountability ratings. Unfortunately, this progress toward leveling the playing field could be significantly eroded by a provision in HB3 that requires public charters to pay into the Teacher Retirement System at a significantly higher rate than in  past years, without providing dollars to cover this new estimated $25 million cost to public charter schools. This year, public charters can better afford our school facilities without cutting into funds that should go into the classroom. Now that we are finally making progress, we urge the legislature not to take that away by adding new costs to public charter schools.

  4. Advance equity for all. Although we do not yet know the full financial impact of funding reform on either Independent School Districts or public charter districts, we applaud the House Public Education Committee, Senate Education Committee, the School Finance Reform Commission, and our state elected leaders for the shared commitment to increasing funding for our most vulnerable students: students living in poverty, students learning English, and students with special needs. We urge you to ensure that the final bill provides for an adequate increase in funding for all public schools, regardless of type, who serve a significant concentration of our highest-need students. In particular, we urge legislators to examine financial models produced by the Legislative Budget Board to ensure that no high-poverty school experiences a cut in funding due to formula changes.

To read the full letter, please click here.

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