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For Immediate Release:2014-02-07
Press Contact: Tracy Young
phone: 512.584.8272
email: tyoung@txcharterschools.org

Getting it Right: Charter School Closing Arguments Make the Case

TEA's Lisa Dawn-Fisher testifies TEA to change the charter school funding formula, and that this change will take money from the charters.

(Austin, Texas) -- Texas Public Charter Schools provided strong closing arguments in Judge Dietz's court at the conclusion of the school finance litigation round two. The Legislature has stated in Texas Education Code 11.002, that charter schools, are primary implementers of public education. Instruction and the facilities, where that instruction takes place, are inseparable. Charters are not saying that we can't be funded using an alternative method. We recognize that we can't be funded like ISDs. We have no taxing authority. We're saying whatever method the Legislature chooses to deliver those funds, it must be fair. Zero charter schools are funded at that level of adequacy that has been identified in this trial. The Legislature has discretion, but that discretion is not unconditional. In this trial, we have shown a huge gap in funding between charter schools and the other plaintiff groups.

More excerpts from Leonard J. Schwartz's, Schulman, Lopez and Hoffer, LLP, closing:
  • "... the Court declares it is within the Legislature's discretion to fund charters differently than traditional public school districts. Any disparities don't rise to the level of rendering the entire system unconstitutional."
    • "The 83rd Legislature in fact increased the gap, and that's based on the State's own testimony."
  • "If [charters] don't have the constitutional protection, neither do the ISDs."
    • "The constitution doesn't say that ISDs need to be given a general diffusion of knowledge. It says public schools. And charters are public schools."
  • "We're not saying that charter schools can't be funded using an alternative method."
    • "We recognize, in fact they have to use an alternative method. We wouldn't exist, but for their discretion in creating us. We recognize that we can't be funded like ISDs. We have no taxing authority. We're saying whatever method the Legislature chooses to deliver those funds, Your Honor, that delivery system must get sufficient funds to the charter schools to reach GDK. The constitution doesn't say ISDs. It doesn't say charter schools. It says public schools. We would not exist but for that authority."
  • "The Legislature has discretion, but that discretion is not unconditional."
    • "Instead, as the Supreme Court emphasized, that discretion is accompanied by standards, and those standards are found in Article VII, Section 1, and we have carried the burden hereby showing a huge gap in funding between charter schools and the other plaintiff groups."
  • "What the Legislature is required to do is establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools."
    • "We are part of that system. We are a public free school, Your Honor."
  • "While the Legislature need not establish any particular type of system, whatever system, the system it designs, must meet the constitutional standard across the board."
    • "The delivery system chosen to fund charters violates all three standards that the Supreme Court has said in interpreting Article VII, Section 1."
    • "It violates the standards of adequacy, efficiency, and suitability."
  • "There are two major causes for the current gap between school districts and charter school funding."
    • "First, the State does not individually adjust charter school allotments based on the characteristics of each school. The State provides no facilities funding for charters. These violations occurred before and they occurred after the 83rd legislative session"
    • "The use of uniform statewide adjusted allotment impacts every component of the Foundation School Program as applied to charter schools"
    • "Beginning with Tier 1, the charter school plaintiffs demonstrated that while the basic allotment for school districts is adjusted to account for each school districts' unique characteristics, that doesn't occur for a single charter school"
    • "The legislative purpose in doing these adjustments was to make -- or attempt, because they never did quite do it, but they were attempting to make and provide for a constitutional suitable educational system."
    • "By not doing it for the charter schools, by not finding a way to look at the characteristics of each charter school, they have failed to make a suitable educational system as a whole."
    • "Every single school district, I repeat, in this state is receiving a specific adjustment for its characteristics. None of the charter schools is likewise recognized."
  • "Charter schools' claims are unique because they're harmed by the outdated weights in the same ways described by school districts, but harmed all the more by the use of the statewide averages."
  • "Remember, instruction and the facilities, where that instruction take place, are inseparable."
  • "Using the state's own data, Toni Templeton also testified that the gap in funding between charter schools and school districts persists regardless of methodology used to calculate that gap, whether we look at it on a district basis or on a student basis, the gap exists, the gap is large and the gap is increasing."
    • "No charter school is funded at the ISD average per WADA. In reality, charter schools are funded at a significantly lower level than ISDs."
    • "The highest funded charter only receive $6068 per WADA in 2014, which is less than the average ISD funding per WADA for that year."
  • "[We show] the extreme arbitrariness of the current system and how the use of that statewide average -- short changes every single charter school, no matter their size, no matter their cost of education, no matter their sparsity. They all get the same."
  • "I want to emphasize, we don't have to be funded in the same manner, but the end result must be the same."
    • "The Legislature does not have unbridled discretion, their discretion is restricted by the standards that have been set in Article VII Section 1 and that's where they have failed and why this Court should rule for the open-enrollment charter schools."
  • "Zero charter schools are funded at that level of adequacy that has been identified in this trial."
    • "That by itself should be enough for the charter schools to win this."
  • "The standard is GDK. That should end the story. It should close the book, but, it doesn't."
    • "Not only does it not end the story, the Legislature added chapters to the story.
    • "They added it in Senate Bill 2."
    • "Chapter 2, they added performance requirements that are only for charter schools."
    • "Chapter 3, they mandated automatic closure, which adds to the cost that charter schools must have, and
    • Chapter 4, they arbitrarily raised the cap by picking out of the sky, a number that has no rational basis whatsoever and
    • For the epilogue, all of this, including the changes required by HB 5 and the other school related legislation adds to the cost of education."
  • "And the sequel is this:
    • "[TEA's] Doctor Lisa Dawn-Fisher [said] that they are going to change the charter school funding formula, and that this change will take money from the charters."
    • "I appreciated the honesty, because what it says is that despite the underfunding of the charter schools that currently exists, despite the inadequate classrooms, the lack of labs, lunch rooms that don't exist, libraries without books, play grounds on concrete, despite the lack of specific adjustments addressing sparsity, the cost of education, and the size of the school, despite the increasing standards placed upon charters by the 83rd Legislature, and despite the irrational use of a uniform average that goes across the board, the State has the gall to tell us that now they're going to make it worse."
  • "Dr. Fisher [said] charters are going to get less money."
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