School Climate & Safety

Texas Charters Win Big In Facility-Grant Competition

By Michelle Galley — August 07, 2002 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

While charter schools in most states are struggling for facilities aid, in Texas they have reaped the benefits of a multimillion-dollar grant program for school renovations and repairs.

Even though those largely independent public schools educate only 1 percent of the students in Texas, such schools received nearly 40 percent of the funding from the $72 million program, financed with federal aid from a Clinton administration facilities initiative.

The one-year program provided $1.2 billion in grant money nationally.

Although the names of the grant recipients were released last fall, the Texas Education Agency did not release until June the actual amount—up to $1 million—each grantee won.

Those figures, especially the hefty share claimed by charters, drew strong reactions from administrators and advocates for regular public schools.

“I was extremely angry, and I thought it was extremely inequitable,” said Graham Sweeney, the superintendent of the 500-student Boles schools near Dallas.

Mr. Sweeney believed his district would get a grant because it is the poorest in the state. However, state officials rejected his application, explaining that the proposed projects would take too long to complete.

Boles was not alone. Of the 344 applications the TEA received from public school districts, only 16 percent, or 57 districts, were awarded the facility grants.

By comparison, 47 charter schools, more than half of those that applied, received grants.

“That situation is probably pretty unusual,” said Robert P. Canavan, the president of Rebuild America’s Schools, a Washington-based coalition of school districts and organizations from across the nation that lobbies for school facility aid.

“States were conscious of the fact that they should include charter schools,” he said. But, he added, most states granted money to charter schools in proportion to public schools.

The legislation that funded the program gave states significant latitude to implement their own criteria as long as they favored rural and low-income schools.

In Texas, preference was given to charters “because charter schools do not have a tax base, and that made them eligible for a lot of this,” said DeEtta Culbertson, a spokeswoman for the TEA.

She pointed out that, unlike school districts, charter schools cannot hold bond elections to raise money for facilities. In addition, the local districts where the charters are located have no obligation under state law to help provide facilities money for charter schools.

Nationwide, charter school operators cite facilities needs as among their greatest and most expensive challenges.

Still, critics contend that too much weight was given to charter schools. “This is a heavy-handed attempt to funnel money intended for public schools into the hands of quasi-private schools,” said John Cole, the president of the Texas Federation of Teachers.

Troubles Cited

The facilities-aid flap is the latest dust-up involving the charter school system in Texas, which has been plagued by contention in recent years.

“A number of schools have closed down or have been closed down by the state after confirmed reports of inflated attendance, of overpaying board members, of nepotism and of suspicious contracts,” said Samantha Smoot, the executive director of the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group based in Austin.

But even with their problems, charters are still doing good work, said Patsy O’Neill, the executive director of Texas Charter School Resource Center in San Antonio. “There are many success stories in the charter school movement,” she said.

Ms. O’Neill added that charter schools needed the federal aid for school repairs and renovation more than the state’s school districts because it is difficult for charter schools to get funding for facilities.

“Traditional financing is difficult because most lending institutions like to lend to an organization with a track record,” she said, and most charter schools are newly formed nonprofit organizations.

Meanwhile, fewer charter schools will be in danger of closing in the future because the state board of education, which grants the charters, and the TEA have refined the application process, Ms. O’Neill said. The facilities aid will also help keep those schools viable, she said.

This fall, 200 Texas charter schools should be up and running, Ms. O’Neill added. “The Texas charter school movement is thriving and rapidly expanding,” she said.

A version of this article appeared in the August 07, 2002 edition of Education Week as Texas Charters Win Big In Facility-Grant Competition


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center Higher Student Morale Linked to In-Person Instruction, Survey Shows
Educators see student morale rising since last spring, according to a new EdWeek Research Center survey.
4 min read
Second-grade students raise their hands during a math lesson with teacher Carlin Daniels at Pulaski Elementary School in Meriden, Conn., Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.
Second grade students raise their hands during a math lesson in Meriden, Conn., Sept. 30.
Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP
School Climate & Safety Law Against 'Disorderly Conduct' in Schools Led to Unfair Student Arrests, Judge Rules
The South Carolina ruling is a model for other states where students are still being arrested for minor incidents, an attorney said.
6 min read
Scales of justice and Gavel on wooden table.
Pattanaphong Khuankaew/iStock
School Climate & Safety A Rise in School Shootings Leads to Renewed Calls for Action
A return to in-person learning means a return to school shootings, advocates warn.
5 min read
Families depart the Mansfield ISD Center For The Performing Arts Center where families were reunited with Timberview High School Students, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021 in Mansfield, Texas. Police in Texas have arrested a student suspected of opening fire during a fight at his Dallas-area high school, leaving four people injured.
Families were reunited Oct. 6 in Mansfield, Texas, after a student opened fire at Timberview High School in Arlington, leaving four people injured. Data show that the start of this school year has been particularly violent compared to previous years.
Tony Gutierrez/AP
School Climate & Safety TikTok Challenge to Slap a Teacher Prompts Urgent Warning
The slapping challenge, which so far has not been widespread, has put educators across the country on alert.
Melissa Gomez, Los Angeles Times
3 min read
The icon for TikTok pictured in New York on Feb. 25, 2020.
The icon for TikTok pictured in New York on Feb. 25, 2020.