Texas to Shut Down 14 Charter Schools

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Texas state education officials have announced that the state will be closing 14 open-enrollment charter schools who failed to meet increased financial and academic performance rules this year.

A 2013 law geared toward increasing the charter school presence in the state requires the Texas Education Agency to close those schools that do not meet the state’s academic or financial accountability ratings for three years.  The law, known as Senate Bill 2, was passed by lawmakers in order to free up the limited number of state contracts for high-performing operators by ending relationships with the lower-performing ones.

When it was passed, the law received full support from the Texas Charter Schools Association, a group whose membership includes most of the charter schools in the state.  Executive Director David Dunn released a statement earlier this week, discussing the importance of the closing those schools that do not meet the needs of their students.

However, he added that the Texas Education Agency should “get the implementation of SB 2 right.”

“Charter schools not only meet the same accountability of our traditional school counterparts, they are held to a higher standard,” he said. “In order to protect the 200,000 public charter school students and families, the charter revocation process must include a fair review.”

Dunn went on to say that the school closures were “just one feature” of the 2013 charter school law.

“The commissioner also has the responsibility to expand strong, existing charters and to bring new, effective charters in. I’m anxious to see that happen for the 100,000 students waiting for a seat at a public charter school,” he said.

While the failing charter schools cannot appeal the decision in court, they can request an informal review with the possibility of reversing the decision to close the school.  Some schools feel that the law does not allow for a full pictures of the school’s financial or academic history, and that schools sometimes receive unfair marks due to technicalities in addition to squashing practices that they feel should instead be encouraged, writes Morgan Smith for The Texas Tribune.  

The schools have until January 12 to request the review.  If the decision of that review is not in their favor, they can request a final hearing before the state Office of Administrative Hearings.

Last year, three charter schools targeted for closure brought on a lawsuit which questioned the constitutionality of the new law.  That lawsuit was unsuccessful, but one of the plaintiffs, Honors Academy, opened for the 2014-2015 school year anyway, referring to itself as an accredited public school.