Every year, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) commissioner grants charters to organizations looking to plant schools. The SBOE has veto power over these decisions and can choose to block charters.
Specific votes on charters have been recorded in the SBOE meeting minutes for the past three years. In total, the SBOE has considered 18 charters since 2019 and approved 12 of them.
Florence Republican Tom Maynard (R-District 10) has voted to award more charters than any other member, having voted for 17 charters since 2019.
Maynard does not have a challenger in the Republican primary.
Current SBOE Chairman Keven Ellis (R-District 9) also has one of the most charter-friendly records on the board. Since he took the chairmanship in 2019, Ellis has largely refrained from voting except on swing decisions. However, every recorded vote Ellis has cast since he was elected in 2016 has been to approve charters.
Ellis also does not have a primary challenger.
Lawrence Allen (D-District 4) has voted to award more charters than any of his Democratic colleagues in this period: 14 out of 18. His record ties him with Parker County Republican Pat Hardy (R-District 11).
Five Democratic candidates are vying to replace Allen, who has chosen not to run for office again. Allen told The Texan that he decided not to endorse a candidate in the Democratic primary since he knows several of them personally. His district, based in Houston and contained almost entirely in Harris County, will almost certainly remain blue; tied with Dallas-Fort Worth-based District 13, held by Aicha Davis (D-Dallas), District 4 has one of the strongest partisan scores in the SBOE based on the Texas Partisan Index.
On the other side of the aisle, outgoing member Georgina Pérez (D-District 1) has never voted to approve a charter, carving out a position as the strongest charter opponent on the board. In the most recent meeting where the board considered new charters, Pérez was the only member to vote against Thrive Center for Success, a Magnolia charter school for autistic children.
Though records before 2019 are spare, meeting minutes and archived footage show that Pérez was the lone ‘nay’ vote on charter approvals in 2017 and 2018.
There are three Democratic candidates running in the District 1 primary: Laura Marquez, Omar Yanar, and Melissa Ortega, who is endorsed by Pérez. Marquez also opposes charter expansion, but Yanar leads an El Paso charter school that he founded in 2010.
In second place for strongest opposition to charters, Ruben Cortez (D-District 2) has only voted to award one charter since 2019.
Cortez is leaving the SBOE. His seat has the slightest partisan leaning in the SBOE, meaning it is most likely to flip parties.
The Democratic candidates running for the seat are Michael Vargas, Thomas Garcia, Pete Garcia, Victor Perez, and Wayne Raasch. The Republican candidates are LJ Francis and Hilda Garza DeShazo.
Matt Robinson (R-District 7) built a reputation as the Republican most opposed to charters on the board, a track record that may have motivated the legislature to draw him out of his seat in the new district maps. He has voted to award three charters since 2018.
Robinson is not seeking reelection. Candidates Julie Pickren, Michael Barton, Abolaji Ayobami, and Danny Surman are competing in the Republican primary for the seat.
The Charter Process
Each year, the TEA commissioner vets prospective charter schools and presents his selection to the SBOE. These rounds of selection are called “Generations,” and they have not always been annual.
Texas has still never matched the growth of new charters it experienced in the first three generations, beginning in 1996.
Multiple campuses can exist under the same charter, so a single charter does not equate to a single school. Some charter networks, such as KIPP or IDEA, have dozens of schools throughout Texas.
Though Texas has awarded 341 charters, only a little more than half of them are still currently active. The state has also capped the number of open-enrollment charters in Texas at no more than 305.
Here are all the votes that the current SBOE members have taken to approve proposed charters in the past three years.
Linked here are the SBOE minutes for the 2021 meeting where it considered new charters and the footage of that meeting.
Here are TEA Commissioner Morath’s chosen charter schools for 2020, the minutes for the SBOE meeting where it considered them, and the footage of that meeting.
Here are the 2019 list of potential charters, SBOE meeting minutes, and footage.
Here are the 2018 list, minutes, and footage.
Here are the 2017 minutes and footage.
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