Selected readings on US charter schools
The list of Texas “brags” is long enough to stretch from Orange on the east to El Paso on the west – or so most of us shameless Texas partisans would like to believe.
But one subject our state doesn’t often have much to brag about is our record on public education. Too often, the best we can say is “Thank God for Mississippi” as Texas schools consistently rank near the bottom nationally in one category or another.
It doesn’t help when the Texas Legislature seems to take an almost perverse pride in being stingy with funding for public schools. Do they actually want us to sink below Mississippi?
But forget all that for the moment. We actually have a brag to make on education. Better yet, it’s not simply a Texas brag; it’s one with a distinct Houston pedigree.
Charter schools born and developed here and elsewhere across our state are being exported to other states and possibly the District of Columbia (“Thriving charter schools become Texas’ latest export,” by Jennifer Radcliffe, Page A1, Monday).
The two best-known Houston brands, KIPP and YES Prep, are already well into expansion mode, especially KIPP.
The KIPP model that was founded in a public school classroom in 1994 now has 141 schools in 20 states. YES Public Schools has plans to open six schools in Memphis, Tenn., and four in Louisiana.
Soner Tarim, founder and superintendent of Harmony Public Schools, a 40-school network across Texas, labels Houston “the Silicon Valley” of charter schools.
That is a high compliment; one that makes us ponder what makes it so.
We’d suggest that education reforms begun in the Houston Independent School District in the 1990s would be one large reason.
The reform movement in Houston led by HISD Superintendent Rod Paige, later secretary of education under President George W. Bush, was an incubator for innovation in urban public education.
It was quite an accomplishment, one in which HISD justifiably takes great pride to this day.
Nationally, the charter school movement, a subset of the larger movement for school choice, appears to be at or near an apogee.
In addition to the Texas charters mentioned, others from California and Arizona are looking to expand nationally.
Charters, which are taxpayer-funded public schools designed to offer students and their families choices, have touched 1.5 million students nationally, including 100,000 in Texas.
Their numbers are growing at a rate of 15 percent annually, and approximately 1 million students are on waiting lists across the country.
It appears the charter movement has largely succeeded in culling out bad apples that tainted the charter system in its early days. Several of those nightmarish charter start-ups were here in Houston.
That effort must continue, as must the effort to boost state funding for all public education in Texas. But for now, let’s enjoy this unexpected moment of Texas brag
Source: Houston Chronicle – Editorial