A big step forward for those who would like to see more charters.
Senate Bill 2 passed on a 105-34 vote on second reading. It now faces a third reading before it can be reconciled with a similar version the Senate passed last month.
“I think the bill supports quality charters, helping them to expand and grow but at the same time helping to shut down the poor performers,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen.
Its author, Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, has called SB2 the most comprehensive charter school legislation since the state introduced the publicly funded and privately run schools in the 1990s. Previous efforts to change the system made it through the Senate but failed to gain traction in the House.
The bill would update rules on the renewal, expansion and revocation of charters, raising the current cap of 215 charters that can be authorized at any one time by allowing an additional 10 per year up to a total of 275 by 2019. Charter holders may operate multiple schools under a single charter.
It would also tighten nepotism rules – an amendment exempts current employees – and give operators the right of first refusal on the lease or purchase of unused facilities in traditional public school districts.
The House adopted other amendments, including one requiring teachers at charter schools to hold bachelor’s degrees and another requiring the majority of a charter’s board members to be “qualified voters.”
Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, introduced the latter amendment, saying it was not aimed at any particular charter operator. Critics of the Harmony Public Schools charter network have complained to lawmakers in the past about the presence of Turkish citizens among Harmony leadership.
Since the House adopted amendments that make the bill differ from the one that the Senate passed, it has to go through a conference committee and get re-passed by each chamber. I don’t expect that will cause any problems, but sometimes strange things happen in the last days of a session. Trail Blazers and the Observer have more.