Two teachers unions are suing the State Education Commissioner in a battle over the relationship between traditional public schools and charter schools, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Louis Malfaro, President of the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers says a new law that promotes 'partnerships' between Independent School Districts and charter school companies actually weakens protections for public school employees, and he says Education Commissioner Mike Morath is breaking the rules to strengthen those ties.
"And what do his ends seem to be?" Alfaro asked. "He is an unabashed cheerleader for charter schools."
One of the new Texas Education Agency rules, approved by the Legislature, that prompted the lawsuit allows private companies to come into an ISD and take over operations of public schools which consistently score poorly on standardized tests and other measurements of improvement. That happened with one San Antonio ISD elementary school earlier this year, angering teachers who said the transition places their jobs, benefits, and seniority in the SAISD in jeopardy.
“The education commissioner has made an unlawful power grab to have complete authority over approving these charter takeovers, and most disturbing is his insistence on breaking the law to ensure that these charter campuses are not subject to important rights protecting teachers and students,” Malfaro said.
Malfaro said some of the expectations for students is that they 'follow the law,' and he said the same is true for the state's highest education official, but he says Morath bent the new law to favor for-profit charter school companies.
"What we are seeing more and more from the Education Commissioner and the TEA is a real power grab," he said.
The SAISD and the TEA have said they are acting within the law and in the best interest of students by inviting private companies into the district. They say if the existing system is not properly serving the students and the community, school districts have an obligation to come up with new ways to improve student performance.