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Texas Senate Approves Charter School Expansion

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April 13, 2013

By Andy Marshall

Texas

AUSTIN, Texas: The Texas Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill to gradually increase the cap on the number of charter schools in the state from 215 to 305 by 2019. The Senate approved Senate Bill 2 by a margin of 30 to 1 on Thursday, April 11. Republican Robert Nichols cast the only dissenting vote. Although the initial bill would have even more significantly increased the number of charter schools in the state and drew strong Democratic opposition, the final version of SB 2 was a compromise bill which attracted support from across the political spectrum.

Senate Bill 2 was introduced by Republican Dan Patrick on February 18 and referred to the Education Committee, which Patrick chairs. Charter schools are publically funded, privately managed schools first authorized in Texas 18 years ago.[1] The original bill would have created a new Charter School Authorizing Authority to supervise charter schools and authorize new ones without a cap on the total number of charters.[2] After amending SB 2 to increase rather than remove the cap, the Education Committee favorably reported the new bill to the Senate on April 3.[3] The final compromise bill which passed the Senate did not include Patrick's proposed charter authority, would make it easier for the state to shut down poorly performing charter schools, and set the 305 cap for 2019, lower than the committee version which would have capped the number of charters schools at 330 in 2020 and increased the cap by 10 in each subsequent year. It also would allow school districts to sell and lease unused facilities to charter schools at fair market value, instead of the $1 required in the original legislation.[4][5]

SB 2's fate now lies in the hands of the Texas House of Representatives, which failed to pass Senate-approved charter school reform bills in 2009 and 2011.[1]

In other education-related legislative action on Thursday, the Senate Education Committee voted to send SB 23 to the Senate for consideration. This bill, sponsored by Patrick and fellow Republican Ken Paxton, would allow business to receive tax credits of up to 100 percent of what they donate toward private school scholarships. The total of tax credits would be capped at $100 million, and these scholarships would pay private school tuition for up to 10,000 students at risk of failing and from low-income families to transfer to private schools.[6][7]

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References

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