Texans: We’re better together

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Structural challenges in public schools are front and center in a new report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) called Better Together: Ensuring Quality District Schools in Times of Charter Growth and Declining Enrollment.

We have heard far too often that charter schools drain resources and students from traditional public schools, leaving districts worse off in the long run. Better Together challenges that harmful rhetoric and instead dives into what charter schools and traditional schools can do together to improve all schools – regardless of labels.

The report focuses on large urban districts wherein enrollment over the past several decades has declined. Texas certainly has a few districts that fit the bill. Digging deeper, however, we can see that charter school enrollment does not entirely explain those declines. Droves of students are being moved to private schools, homeschooling, or other districts as well.

 

Declining enrollment

So what’s the big deal with declining enrollment? The short answer is money.

The longer answer, however, lies in the long-term effects of being short on cash. In a high-growth state like Texas, “we’ve built districts to grow easily” – which is to say that shrinking is not something they’re not necessarily good at doing. The domino effect of declining enrollment is well illustrated in this chart:

Center on Reinventing Public Education

Thus, simply blaming charters is not only incorrect, but it obscures possible solutions as we seek to revitalize district schools. And that is work we can all engage in. As one school finance expert put it, “Declining enrollment may not be charters’ fault, but it is their problem.”

 

Solutions for Texas

Texas Aspires wants to be part of the solution to that problem. That’s why our team championed Senate Bill 1882, which gives Texas charter and traditional schools financial incentives to partner together to address the complexities of public education. We look forward to seeing the exciting and innovative approaches schools take as a result of this legislation and can’t wait to share their work.

Both of Texas’ public school sectors have their own struggles and shortcomings, and both have pointed those out to draw students away from the other in the past. In the future, schools will work better for students if communities tackle education issues together instead of fighting in warring factions. We really are better together.

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