Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bill boosts funding for local, state charter schools

By Meredith Shamburger
Aug. 25, 2017 at 11:49 p.m.

A school finance bill signed into law recently by Gov. Greg Abbott includes a first: money that state charter schools can use to pay for new facilities.

It's a big change, as charter schools previously only were eligible to receive state funds for operational costs. A Longview charter school official said the move is "a step in the right direction, for sure."

"It's about time that they did something," said East Texas Charter Schools Superintendent Terry Lapic.

In the recent special session, state lawmakers accepted a Senate plan to put $351 million into public schools — $120 million of which is earmarked for charter schools and traditional schools to pay for new facilities.

The additional money available to charter schools means they can use operational funding for educational purposes and not for expenses such as rent.

The funding is only available to charter schools that meet overall acceptable ratings under the state's accountability system. Because East Texas Charter Schools received an improvement required designation in this year's state ratings, it won't be eligible for the facilities funding in the first year it is available.

"This is a historic win for families choosing a public charter school for their child," David Dunn, executive director of the Texas Charter Schools Association, said in a statement. "HB 21 is a first step to closing the funding gap for the 273,000 students attending a public charter school in Texas and will help provide additional classroom seats for the 141,000 student on a charter waiting list."

East Texas Charter Schools owns its own facilities, and Lapic said the school has been fortunate over the years in managing money so that all its buildings are paid for even though no state funds ever were received specifically for that purpose. HB 21 will help the district down the road should it need new buildings, Lapic said.

"It came a few years too late to help us, but it's a whole lot better than having charter schools having to be out there leasing properties and stuff like that and being tenants instead of having their own permanent facilities," he said.

Abbott praised the funding bill.

"Nothing is more important than preparing our children for their future, which is why Texas will continue to prioritize investments in education," Abbott said in a statement. "My job as governor is to ensure that we attract and we retain the best and brightest educators and provide the highest quality education possible for all students."



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