As previously reported, longtime State Representative and progressive leader Lon Burnam is being challenged in a heated primary for HD-90 by Ramon Romero, who a history of donating to Republican candidates. Now, an out-of-state charter school advocacy group run primarily by Wall Street bankers is funding mailers for Romero.
Lon Burnam has been a watchdog for public education, carefully monitoring charter school expansion in Texas. He has an established record prioritizing public education for all students in his district, knowing well how lack of oversight of charter schools, as well as their expansion, can affect his district.
Education Reform Now, a New York-based charter school group, has dropped two district-wide mailers supporting Burnam's opponent. This group has worked actively in other states to push for the expansion of charter schools. From their website:
ERN-WA helped lead the coalition that campaigned successfully for the passage of a public charter school initiative in November 2012. Not only has Washington State lifted its ban on public charter schools, but thanks to ERN's work, it now has one of the strongest charter school laws in the country.
Read more about Representative Burnam's strong record on charter school accountability and his support of public schools below the jump:As a part of the charter school expansion bill, Representative Burnam attached an amendment to ensure that evaluations of charter schools versus public schools were done more fairly by requiring state evaluations of their effectiveness be performed by non-partisan research centers at Texas universities as opposed to the Governor-appointed Commissioner of Education. This was done so that less biased evidence would be gathered to support the expansion of charter schools.
Another change to the charter school expansion bill last took primary approval of charters out of the hands of the State Board of Education and to Education Commissioner and Perry appointee, Michael Williams, to do initial approvals with the State Board of Education having veto power. With little notice, certain charter schools were being pushed through in Burnam's district, which he then pressed the Education Commissioner for additional review time for local school districts.
Unlike many Texas charters, particularly KIPP and IDEA public schools – which both formed with a mission to reach economically disadvantaged communities – Basis and Great Hearts tend to end up with student bodies that are disproportionately affluent and white.
Throughout his tenure as a State Representative and seen in his work in this last session, Lon Burnam has been able to accomplish remarkable work. He has served as a champion for the community in regards to charter schools to ensure the public has a voice, and helped oppose a particular charter that would have been detrimental to his Latino-majority district.
One of the mailers sent out about Ramon Romero claims he has fought to restore public education funding, however, it details nothing to what his work entailed. He was not a part of the fight at that time, and has said little in regards to what he would do. However, the fact he has charter school expansion group campaigning for him says plenty.
In addition to campaigning for Ramon, the DC-based firm the New York advocacy group is using for this campaign season has also invested in Texas Lawsuit Reform favorites Marisa Marquez and Naomi Gonzalez.
It's obvious who the real leader to ensure transparency with charter schools is. A true progressive with a record to prove it says much more than a Democrat with a Republican donating history who is funded by organizations ready to push charter schools with no accountability. Representative Burnam is someone who we need to keep in the State House to ensure all students in his district have fair access to a quality education.
Ed Note. 2:18 p.m. 2/28 — Due to confusion over word order in the headline, we have revised the title of this post. Romero's the one supported by charter schools, not Burnam.