Texas Charter Schools, Parents Sue State Over Facilities Funding

Dana Allen, a Lakewood parent, is thrilled with the education her 5-year-old receives at Lindsley Park charter school, but is displeased that the school has no gym, no cafeteria, no library and no computer lab. She attributes the absence of such basic niceties to the school's lack of state funding for facilities -- a challenge charters have faced since they were created -- and the matter of a lawsuit filed against the state this week.

The Texas Charter School Association and six parents, including Allen, are suing the state for denying charter schools money for facilities while providing such funding to traditional public schools. They allege that the state is violating its own constitution, which calls for "efficiency" in education:

Unlike school districts, which have a local tax base and receive State aid for facilities, charter schools have neither a local tax base nor receive direct State aid for instructional facilities. Consequently, charter schools are forced to spend operating dollars to support the cost of instructional facilities, but also the classrooms where that instruction will occur.

The lawsuit also alleges that the cap of 215 charters that can be authorized in the state is arbitrary and unconstitutional, as it "stymies the very efficiency charter schools were intended to promote."

Which is about the same claim being made in five other public school finance lawsuits.

A spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency said she had not seen the lawsuit and declined to comment. Allen, the parent volunteer, hopes the lawsuit will allow charters to obtain the same funding as traditional public schools.

"It's not really fair because we all pay taxes too," she says.

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Leslie Minora