Prime Prep Is Going Down Fighting

Earlier this month, as reported by Unfair Park and practically every other outlet in town, the Texas Education Agency began the process of revoking Prime Prep's charter. The reasons for the potential revocation are convoluted, the upshot isn't. Should its charter be revoked, the school would have to stop enrolling students.

See also: Texas Has Revoked the Charter of Prime Prep, the Public School Founded by Deion Sanders

Sanders and company had until July 30 to appeal the decision. Yesterday, their Austin law firm did so:

"We are confident that following the recent changes made by the Uplift Board, Prime Prep Academy is now in a strong position to continue its mission, and the revocation of the charter and shutting down the school would only harm the students and prevent them from receiving the quality of education they deserve."

The most important part of the TEA's case against Prime Prep is the school's current ineligibility to participate in the federal free and reduced price lunch program. In 2012, Prime Prep was sued by the federal government for, among other things, alleged improprieties in the school's administration of a summer lunch program. Meals purchased with federal funds, the government says, were provided as part of a for-profit summer camp.

This spring, the government secured a default judgement against Prime Prep after Uplift Fort Worth, Prime Prep's parent organization, failed to provide a timely response to the suit. Because of the ruling, and a Texas Department of Agriculture audit which found a number of other problems with how Prime Prep fed its students, the school was kicked out of the National School Lunch Program.

Prime Prep received good news on that front on Wednesday. Prime Prep had not been properly served in the case, U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn ruled, so she set aside the default verdict. Abigail Santos, the person served in the case, was not a registered agent of the school, the court said.

Prime Prep issued a press release praising the ruling.

"I am hopeful that today's judgment will shine a light to the TEA and to the Texas Department of Agriculture that, as superintendent, I am doing everything in my power to ensure that the school is managed responsibly, accurately and correctly," Ron Price, the superintendent of Prime Prep said.

Whether the ruling means anything for the school's TEA appeal remains to be seen, as it doesn't mean the school has been readmitted to the free lunch program. To have that happen, the school would have to apply to get off the restricted list and pay back the around $46,000 it owes the program. Sanders has offered to pay back the money himself.

The Dallas Morning News reports that the school's initial appeal should take about a month. Were it to lose, Prime Prep could then take its case to the State Office of Administrative Hearings, where proceedings could last well into the spring semester.

Prime Prep Appeal

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young