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PSJA ISD Superintendent Dr. Daniel King and the school board of trustees have given up hope of implementing their EmpowerEd plan – even in schools that voted in favor of it.

In a letter to the schools that supported the “charter lite” proposal, King said the school board president, Ronald “Ronnie” Cantu, asked him to drop the issue.

The letter was sent to teachers and staff at Anaya Elementary, Chavez Elementary, Garza Elementary, Livas Elementary, Sorenson Elementary, and Sotomayor Early College High School.

Ronnie Cantu

Here is King’s letter in full:

Teachers and Staff:

Your campus voted in support of proceeding with EmpowerED!. I committed to presenting those campuses who voted in favor to the Board of Trustees for consideration with the goal of presenting the EmpowerED! model to the Texas Education Agency for approval and funding. However, 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. 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. Thank you for taking the interest and time to discuss and vote on the proposal, and for your willingness to move forward. While we will not proceed, it is my hope that this discussion in PSJA and this entire experience will inform state level policy makers in the months and years to come. I believe that the answer to school improvement lies not in campus takeovers, but in the local community and the educators at the campus and district level taking ownership as a team. I also believe that equity in funding of schools is a critical issue of social justice and state responsibility. While I had hoped to exemplify this through this proposal, I understand that most of our teachers did not see SB 1882 as the appropriate lens through which to pilot this. I fully understand the mistrust that is based on how some charter systems and campuses operate. I know that here in PSJA we will be continuing to learn from this, as we seek to move towards increased goal focused and student achievement oriented participatory decision making.

Enjoy your summer as we prepare for an exciting 2018-19 school year in PSJA!

Sincerely,

Daniel King

In a vote last Thursday, an overwhelming majority of educators in Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD schools voted against a plan that could have seen non-profits play a bigger role in running education operations.

The vote for the EmpowerED proposal was 661. The vote against was 441. Six elementary schools voted for the proposal, while 19 voted against. None of the middle schools voted for the proposal and eight voted against. Of the high schools, one voted for, and seven against.

Dr. King held a number of meetings at different campuses to push the proposal. He argued more money would be available for instruction and teacher pay. If the school district as a whole had supported the proposal, PSJA would have received $28 million more per year. Per student the increase would have been $909 per year.

Announcing the results last Thursday, King told teachers and staff:

“Thank you for taking the interest and time to vote on the EmpowerED! proposal. Attached you will find the summary tabulation sheet for all of the campuses. A substantial majority of campuses and teachers voted against moving forward with this plan. I will be forwarding the results of the vote to the Board of Trustees.

“I have enjoyed the discussion we have had over the past few weeks. I promised to give you voice and first say on this proposal, and I respect your choice. As per our discussions, our plan is to move towards increasing participatory decision-making with all campuses.

“Enjoy the last day of Enrichment Camps with your students, and then enjoy your summer. I know many of you are working summer school, curriculum writing, etc. Nevertheless, take time for yourselves and your families. And then come back ready for a great 2018-19 school year.”

Allowing non-profits to help run public schools came about through Senate Bill 1882. The legislation was aimed at improving low-performing schools but a loophole in the bill allowed other schools to consider utilizing its provisions.

Groups like the American Federation of Teachers strongly opposed the measure. The group is slated to hold a “Prop Public School Rally” outside PSJA Early College High School in San Juan later today, just before the school board is due to meet.

The union said the results sent a resounding and clear message. 

“When educators are asked if their public schools should be handed over to private operators, the overwhelming answer is no,” PSJA AFT said.

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