Cashing in on Kids

Texas school board rejects Athlos charter school AGAIN

AthlosThe Texas school board of education rejects the Athlos Academy charter application for the second year in a row.

The application submitted by Idaho-based Athlos Academies to open two new charter schools in the Dallas area was vetoed by a vote of 12-2 at the Texas State Board of Education meeting on July 17th. Education Commissioner Michael Williams recommended the schools for approval along with five others, out of a pool of 32 applications. However, SBOE members Erika Beltran (D-Dallas) and Marty Rowley (R-Amarillo) raised numerous questions about their proposed operations at the full board meeting, leading to the veto of Williams’ recommendation. Their concerns included:

  • Potential conflicts of interest between the schools, Athlos Academies, and the Charter School Fund, a related entity that would have financed the building construction.  Athlos and Charter School Fund share the same address and some leadership.
  • Approximately 18% of state funds would have been paid to the Idaho group to pay for the building leases. Including curriculum costs paid to Athlos, a total of 20% of funds would have left the state.
  • Arms length governance issues between the Texas-based Athlos Foundation and the Idaho group Athlos Academies.
  • The application included ambitious growth plans, but only 15 people showed up to an information session.
This is the second time the SBOE has vetoed a new school. They voted to reject an expansion application from Great Hearts Academies, an Arizona-based chain, in 2014 because the schools cater to white, affluent students. In an unprecedented move, Education Commissioner Williams subverted the board and adjusted rules to allow the Great Hearts schools to open under an existing charter.

Videos of the SBOE meetings are here.

Committee meeting here.