This legislative session, some Texas lawmakers are pushing bills that would increase per-student funding for public charter schools. Each year, these charters schools currently receive $1400 dollars less per student than traditional public schools. Backers of the proposed changes want give charters more money, specifically for maintaining and updating school facilities.
Sixth graders at Texas Leadership Charter Academy in Abilene will move up into a new building by the time they’re in seventh and eighth grade. The school has 400 students, and they’re working to add a fourth building to their campus. This space used to be Valley View Elementary School. The campus was built in 1926, and has an art modern/art deco design.
“It’s got tons of character and with that tons of opportunity for improvement,” said Assistant Principal Carmen Crane.
Right now, money for any updates come right out of the school’s general fund, but that could change if these bills make it through the state legislature.
“House Bills 2337 and Senate Bill 457 seek to close the gap by $700,” Crane said. “Both bills and the governor’s budget seek to give charters $700 per student, per year.”
Crane said receiving facilities funding will help the administration be more forward thinking instead of one step behind. She can plan upgrades without worrying about pulling money from the general fund. That money, she said, is needed for salaries and supplies.
“Its definitely something that I will be emailing and calling Stan Lambert and Dawn Buckingham to let them know that I would appreciate them to vote for,” Crane said.
Charter schools are free to attend and publicly funded. There are 629 charter campuses in Texas. One thing that makes a charter school different is its model- some are focused on college prep, others, drop out recovery or leadership skills. Almost 250,000 students are enrolled, about half that amount are on waiting lists. Crane said there are still misconceptions about charter schools. She thinks more people would support these bills if they knew charter schools were part of Texas’s public school system.