The Surreal Opposition of Fort Worth ISD to a New Public Charter School For Psychiatric Hospital Patients

Why would an ISD – one that claims to care about the thousands of students in their district – speak out against a new charter school that would serve some of the most at-risk youth in Texas? We’re wondering the same thing. Hold on tight for this one.

On Tuesday, March 9th, the Superintendent of Fort Worth ISD, Dr. Kent Scribner, sent a “statement of impact” letter to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, state legislators, TEA, and the State Board of Education. The letter argues that a new Ki Charter Academy campus in Desoto would cause “revenue loss (that) would harm thousands of students in (their) school district.” He then proceeded to state his opposition to all charter expansions, even going so far as to call them “unconscionable.” Read the full letter here. 

Here’s the kicker: Ki Charter is proposing to open in a Residential Treatment Center for those who are recovering from drug addiction, have attempted suicide, or for other serious reasons need this kind of environment. The new Ki Charter program would  serve children who are currently patients at a psychiatric hospital, Hickory Trails Hospital, where they are not currently enrolled in school at all. These students are not currently enrolled in Ft. Worth ISD, or any other ISD, so there will be no “loss of revenue” to anyone if they enroll at Ki Charter Academy.

In fact, Ki Charter has a distinguished track record bringing education to settings such as Hickory Trails. That’s the very mission of the school. In every district Ki operates, superintendents, state education officials, and hospital staff overwhelmingly support the organization. You can see their letters of support here.

This begs the question: did Fort Worth ISD even read Ki Charter’s application? Or are they now in the practice of sending out a pre-written “statement of impact” for any and all new charters that want to educate students in an entire metro area? Let’s take into account that at this same time, Dr. Scribner sent statements of impact opposing 7 other new charter schools. 

In a letter to lawmakers, TPCSA’s CEO Starlee Coleman asked:  “How can you take their statements about how their district will be impacted seriously when they don’t even read the application?”

Ms. Coleman went on to highlight this as an example of reflexive charter opposition that is blind to facts. “It goes to show you that the opposition to charter schools has become so knee-jerk that Superintendents don’t even bother to look at the actual application of the charter that is proposed…I hope that you’ll keep this example in mind the next time a Superintendent calls to talk to you about charter schools. Are you sure you’re being given facts?” Check out her full email here. 

Fort Worth ISD’s blatant misrepresentation of the financial impact Ki Charter Academy posed to the district, and its careless opposition to a phenomenal charter school designed for students at risk, is what’s truly “unconscionable” here. 

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