Senate Education Bill Calls For Unprecedented Privatization of Texas Schools

Senate Education Bill Calls For Unprecedented Privatization of Texas Schools

Bill Could Privatize Hundreds of Schools, Dramatically Expand Charter System
April 12, 2005

AUSTIN Measures in the Senate’s education overhaul bill that would massively expand the state’s troubled charter school system and turn over hundreds of neighborhood schools to for-profit companies amount to a privatization scheme gone wild, the president of the Texas Freedom Network said today. The Senate Education Committee is hearing testimony on the bill today.

“Privatization is actually a radical experiment for a problem that already has a solution: fully funding and reinforcing standards that have helped our children and schools succeed,” TFN President Kathy Miller said. “Every dollar wasted on unproven and often failing, for-profit education companies is a dollar that could otherwise be spent on proven standards like small class sizes, early reading intervention, certified teachers in every classroom and strong accountability measures.”

According to an analysis by the Coalition for Public Schools, the Senate’s education overhaul bill (C.S.H.B. 2) by Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, could:

  • let existing charter schools expand unchecked under a new state license,
  • allow new charter “districts” to open an unlimited number of charter schools anywhere in the state, and
  • permit a new category of charter schools that are operated by for-profit, publicly traded companies.

“Texas has spent nearly $1.7 billion on charter schools,” Miller said. “It would be fiscally irresponsible to throw away more money on a system already plagued by financial mismanagement and poor student performance. Legislators should fix the current charter school system and make sure we’re getting what we paid for.”

The Senate bill would also permit the state education commissioner to farm out the management of struggling public schools to private, for-profit education companies.

Under new rules announced last week by Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley, the number of public schools rated “academically unacceptable” would have been more than 1,200 this year more than one-sixth of the state’s 6,600 public schools. If the proposed Senate bill had been in effect, the state could have turned many of those schools over to for-profit companies, such as Edison Schools, Inc.

School districts across the country including Texas districts in Dallas, San Antonio, Tyler and Sherman have terminated contracts with Edison because the company’s schools had such a poor record of improving student performance.

“Private, for-profit education companies like Edison do a bad job teaching their students,” Miller said. “But they do a great job of playing their political connections to get public funding to take over neighborhood schools.”