Education Inequality: A Story About Charter Schools in Texas

This week is National Charter Schools Week. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first charter school law, which changed the future of public education and student success. For my family, having a charter school option available for our youngest daughter is a life changer. She currently attends a charter in Fort Worth. But it is unfortunate that after 30 years, public charter schools are not treated fairly. 

In recent years, supporting charter schools has become political; the focus has been taken away from what students need. Instead of looking at the data of student outcomes, learning from charter schools who are outperforming district schools, and working to bring equity to our education system, charter opponents focus on dividing us by turning this into a partisan issue. Charter opponents do not understand the struggle that many families, like mine, have been through. For me, having the choice to send my youngest daughter to a high-quality public charter school is a matter of urgency. The education system failed me when charter schools were not even in existence. And the education system failed my two oldest children before I knew about charter schools. The education system is not fit for all students; our families need options and resources in our own communities. Why would someone try to keep me from having a choice? Our children do not have time to continue waiting for the system to improve. We have already been waiting for over 30 years! 

One of the biggest issues with charters is funding. Why not advocate together so that we can increase per-pupil funding for all students in all public schools? In Texas, charter opponents say that charter schools receive more state funding than school districts. Texas school districts receive funding from both state and local property taxes. However, public charter schools receive NO local funds from property taxes. This means that my own property taxes do not fund my daughter’s school. 

So when charter opponents say that charters receive more funding from the state than school districts, technically the answer is yes. But the reality is that public charter schools receive less money per student than district schools. When you total the amount that ISDs (school districts) receive from both state and local funding, the total is higher than the amount that charters receive from the state. For example, in 2018-2019, district schools received from state and local funding a total of $11,397 per ISD student. Meanwhile, charter schools received $10,721 per student. This means that public charter schools received almost $700 less per student than ISD’s. How is this equitable funding for all public schools? Charter schools ARE public schools, and should be treated as such!

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Lety Gomez

Lety Gomez

Lety Gómez was born and raised in East San Jose. She is married with three children. She is proud to be the first in her family to attend college and receive a bachelor’s degree. When she was a teenager, Fr. Mateo Sheedy was the pastor of her parish, Sacred Heart of Jesus. She fondly remembers his passion for social justice, especially justice for the immigrant community in San Jose and ensuring that the parish youth had access to high quality education. Fr. Mateo instilled in her his passion for social justice, but for many years it was kept unlit, deep inside of her. It wasn’t until her youngest daughter was enrolled at Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep in 2014 that her passion for social justice lit up. Thanks to the Rocketship parent organizer at that time, Lety received training and the tools to use her voice for social justice and learned about community organizing. She is proud to be one of the many parents who worked hard to open their school, knowing that the kids needed and deserved a better public school. That struggle is why they named their school Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep. “Fuerza” is the Spanish word for force, strength, or power. Her passion for advocating for equity in education has allowed her to be a voice for other parents in her community who seek high quality education options. In 2014, she chaired the first parent-led Mayoral candidates forum in San Jose, where she realized the power parents have to create change in their communities. She wants to share her story with other parents in an effort to motivate them to get involved so they can advocate together, because united, they can make a change in the educational system and in their communities. In 2020 Lety moved to Texas, where she continues to advocate for equity in public education and school choice across our country.

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