Once upon a time, charter school advocates believed in letting a thousand flowers bloom, then uprooting any weeds among them. Now comes more evidence from the Texas hothouse that such garden maintenance is a lot harder than we imagined. Consider Jesse Jackson Academy in Houston, infamous for its low test scores, financial irregularities, and bona fide cheating scandal--and its ability to stay open, despite the Texas Education Agency's repeated attempts to close it. Jackson got its start in 1998, when the state board of education caved to political pressure and approved every school that applied for a charter. Now a spokeswoman for the TEA--which had urged the state board to approve only a handful of applicants that year--explains that "It's a very difficult process to close a charter school. That's why we try to get them to turn in their charter voluntarily. Otherwise, it takes thousands of hours of work and years to do it." Some of the best charter schools in the state have urged the legislature to shut down the many schools that should never have opened, but lawmakers declined. Looks like the weeds will keep stealing Lone Star State media sunshine in the years to come.
"Cheating's off the charts at charter schools," by Joshua Benton and Holly K. Hacker, Dallas Morning News, June 4, 2007