PSJA ISD superintendent drops charter partnership proposal

PHARR — A controversial proposal to partner the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district campuses with charter-like entities was officially taken off the table Monday as Superintendent Daniel King announced he won’t take the proposal before the board.

“Due to the substantial majority of teachers and campuses district-wide that voted against proceeding and the limited number of teachers and campuses that supported moving forward, the School Board President has asked me to not place the proposal on the agenda and simply let the matter die,” King said in an announcement to teachers and staff. “I promised to give our teachers voice and first say on this and our teachers spoke loud and clear. Therefore, EmpowerED! will not be presented to the board, nor will it be presented to TEA for consideration.”

A vote on the matter took place Thursday afternoon, resulting in 1,448 teachers and staff against the adoption of Senate Bill 1882 and 661 votes in favor.

Out of the 42 schools in the district only seven voted in favor of moving forward with the proposal. But the process as King proposed had three levels as it would go before the teachers, then board and then the Texas Education Agency.

Through SB 1882, King proposed partnering with non-profit organizations to help him oversee campuses with the goal of innovating. His idea, called EmpowerED, he said was aimed at moving toward giving teachers a greater say-so over campus decisions by having these organizations guiding them.

Such a move, he said could allow campuses to play on their strengths and implement innovative ideas that make sense to that campus in specific, rather than taking on a district-wide mandate that might not work for every campus. It could also yield additional funding for the schools of up to $906 per student per year, King said.

But the plan also brought up many concerns for teachers who saw the original intent of the bill, which was to allow districts to give up control of underperforming campuses to charters, as a first step toward privatization of public schools.

Teachers and teacher unions prepared several meetings and rallies in opposition to the adoption of the bill before and after the teacher vote, with the last one scheduled for Monday. This last meeting still took place even after King’s announcement.

“Thank you Dr. King for doing the best thing for the community and public schools! We look forward to working together as a district and as a community to build strong, innovative schools where teachers and employees of the district are empowered,” the district’s American Federation of Teachers chapter wrote in a social media post. “The fight is still not over for public schools across the state but we will continue to fight for what is in the best interest of public education!”