Texas teachers unions sue education agency over charter partnership law

Aug 30, 2018 by

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, two teacher groups argue Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath exceeded his authority and weakened protections for public school employees.

by Aliyya Swaby –

Two teacher associations sued Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath and the Texas Education Agency on Wednesday, arguing they rolled out a law incentivizing partnerships with school districts and charter schools in a way that weakened protections for public school employees.

The lawsuit, filed in Travis County District Court, centers on Senate Bill 1882, which lets traditional school districts partner with outside organizations — including charter schools and nonprofit organizations — to turn around low-performing schools and receive a temporary reprieve from harsh state penalties and gain additional state funding.

The Texas State Teachers Association and the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, a national teachers union, argue in the suit that Morath exceeded his authority in releasing schools seeking partnerships from existing state regulations — harming teachers who benefit from those rights.

“Contrary to legislative intent … the Commissioner’s rules challenged in this lawsuit reduces the number and type of charter operators that must abide by the rules that were put in place to protect public school employees in SB 1882 charter schools and relaxes the requirements that the school district and charter operator need to satisfy before they can qualify for the benefits available under the law,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit is part of a larger Texas debate about whether the state’s increasingly tough accountability measures will successfully get schools to meet higher educational standards.

Educator groups also have consistently criticized Morath for prioritizing the growth of Texas charter schools — privately-managed public schools with fewer state regulations — to the detriment of traditional public schools.

Morath “is an unabashed cheerleader for charter schools,” said Texas AFT president Louis Malfaro at a news conference Thursday morning.

Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, and Louis Malfaro, president of the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, at a press conference at the Capitol on August 30, 2018.
Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, and Louis Malfaro, president of the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, at a press conference at the Capitol on August 30, 2018. Rachel Zein for The Texas Tribun

The groups are asking the court to find Morath’s rules invalid. The TEA declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday, referring inquiries to the Texas attorney general.

SB 1882 was intended to serve as a lifeline for school districts that needed more resources and more time to get students in chronically failing schools performing better on standardized tests and meeting state standards. Under this law, districts turn over management of their low-performing schools to their partner organizations, which could be universities, nonprofits or charters.

continue: Texas teachers unions sue education agency over charter partnership law | The Texas Tribune

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