Education
4:36 pm
Mon February 27, 2012

AISD Extends Opt-Out Deadline For IDEA Charter Program

Parents with children at Allan Elementary school now have an extra two weeks to decide if they want their kids to enroll in a controversial charter school program launching next year. The Austin Independent School District announced this afternoon that it has set a new deadline for March 9. The original deadline was last Friday, February 24. 

 “While I feel certain that parents knew about their options before the Feb. 24 deadline, and while we have no formal request for an extension from parents affected by the choice, we will extend the deadline to March 9 in order to alleviate any lingering concerns from other community stakeholders,” Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said in a news release.

In a contentious 6-3 vote in December, AISD contracted with IDEA Public Schools, a charter school operator from South Texas, to develop a college prep-style program that would operate out of two East Austin schools. The program starts next year in Allan Elementary and expands to include the Eastside Memorial High School campus in the 2013-14 school year.  

Some parents had pleaded with the district to extend the deadline, saying not all families had received the necessary information to opt out. A group called Pride of the Eastside, which opposes the in-district charter school program, believes it may be able to compel AISD to cancel its contract with IDEA Public Schools if too few students enroll in the program.

The contract between AISD and IDEA says the program will have a minimum of 336 students in its first year. If that goal is not met, then “AISD and IDEA agree to determine whether the parties can proceed under this Agreement and to advise the AISD Board of Trustees on or before June 1st.”

Adding to the pressure was a column from the Austin American-Statesman’s editorial board on the weekend that urged AISD to “respect East Austin families' choices.”

Carstarphen has again drawn a hard line regarding her pet project. If she refuses to yield to requests for more time, then her bosses — school trustees — must step in and do the sensible thing by overruling Carstarphen. After all, we're talking about important decisions confronting parents about whether a charter school or traditional school is the best option for their children. Austin School Board President Mark Williams agrees that it is wise to extend the deadline.