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Senate Bill Targets Unused Classrooms For New Charter School Locations

The head of the Senate Education Committee says 100,000 Texas families are on waiting lists for charter schools, and it's time to expand the number of charters and provide more funding. 

The KERA radio story.

Senate Bill Targets Unused Classrooms For New Charter School Locations

Senator Dan Patrick, Republican from Houston wants to expand the number of charter schools by lifting the current cap of 215 licenses. Patrick’s bill would also provide additional taxpayer funding for charter school facilities – not now provided. And it would require school districts to lease or sell unused buildings to charter schools. 

At the Senate Education Committee meeting, Dallas Democratic Senator Royce West told Patrick that’s a problem. 

“In the future we may need this building, and if the state says that we shall lease it, we shall sell it, that leaves no discretion in terms of future planning," West said. "And the planning ends up being, well, the only way we can address the educational needs for those kids in that area is to use that charter school. And that’s totally unacceptable to me.”

Fort Worth Democratic Senator Wendy Davis is concerned about expanding the number of charter schools without streamlining the process to close down the bad ones already operating.

Patrick says he’s open to some changes in the bill, which he says will provide flexibility and options to parents who are “desperate for their children to have choice.”  

hdes.copeland / flickr.com

About 135,000 of the state’s five million students attend charter schools.  Past efforts to expand them have fizzled amid opposition from both parties.

Copyright 2020 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

BJ Austin has more than 25 years of broadcast journalism experience, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.