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Bipartisan bill would expand district-charter partnerships

Leaders from San Antonio ISD and Grand Prairie ISD testified in front of the Texas Senate Education Committee on Thursday alongside their charter school partners in support of a bipartisan bill that would encourage the expansion of district-charter partnerships like theirs.

Senate Bill 1882, authored by Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) and Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), relates to school district contracts to partner with open-enrollment charter schools to operate district campuses and share education resources. Sen. Van Taylor called this district-charter partnership bill a “public-public partnership,” pointing out that charter schools are public schools.

San Antonio ISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said his district has multiple schools operating in partnership with charter schools, and those campuses are his most successful. He touted the expertise he’s able to bring to his district through these partnerships, to which he otherwise wouldn’t have access. Some charter schools have expertise that San Antonio ISD needs, he said. By working in partnership with KIPP San Antonio, which had a representative testifying, as well, they can address needs like never before without having to recreate what KIPP already has in place. He stressed the need for districts to look at all sources for great ideas to serve students, especially those from lower-income families.

“We’re not afraid to learn from others,” Martinez said. “Traditional practices don’t always work.”

GPISD works with Uplift on counseling, staff development and more in a truly collaborative environment, sharing best practices every day within a single school, and even eating lunch together, a representative from Uplift Education said. She added that there are plans to flip it in the future and have GPISD operate within an Uplift school to offer pre-K. When asked if any of the teachers in GPISD have a problem with the charter relationship, Lewis said no teacher has ever expressed concern or raised an issue with it. “We set the standard as an innovative school district. What we do, we do for the kids,” she said.

Some concerns were mentioned, including the Association of Texas Professional Educators' desire to ensure that neighborhood children don’t lose access to neighborhood schools and address which entity – the charter or the traditional public school – would employ staff members who are part of the partnership. To the latter point, Martinez said SAISD leverages both charter employees and district employees. “We will always advocate for our staff,” he said, adding that his district also wants to empower the experts secured by charter schools.

SB 1882 was left pending in committee on Thursday.

The bill’s companion, House Bill 3439, was heard Tuesday in the House Public Education Committee “and received warm bipartisan support from the members. School leaders from existing partnerships shared their experiences and triumphs as well as the need to encourage the expansion of the innovative work they do,” Texas Aspires reports.

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