Staff Editorial

Charter school should adhere to TEA ruling

Benji’s Special Educational Academy welcomed students to classes on Tuesday, disregarding a state order to close up shop. The Houston Chronicle reported that “a state appointed board of managers had voted to shut down the Fifth Ward charter school effective (Wednesday), but the school founder and chief executive Theaola Robinson told parents Tuesday night to bring their children.”

The school’s 2010 academic rating — according to the Texas Education Agency — was deemed unacceptable, which leads us to believe that, regardless of what students and parents are saying, it’s not somewhere we’d send our kids.

Robinson was paid a $120,000 salary in 2009, according to the Chronicle, and wasn’t alone in her refusal to accept the state’s decision.

State Rep. Harold Dutton has made it a race-related issue.

“I think TEA (Texas Education Agency) is on a mission to destroy charter schools that are run by black folks,” Dutton said, apparently unaware of the fact that Benji’s has failed to meet federal academic standards in four of the last five years.

The TEA is in place to guarantee the finest education for the children of the city of Houston, as best it’s able, and it sounds to us like politicians who have no reason to get involved are interfering with the process.

“There is no state money flowing to the school so I don’t know how they’ll pay teachers,” TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe told the Chronicle. “[And] the textbooks they’re using are state books. The desks they’re using have been purchased with state funds. All of that is something that will have to get resolved over the coming days.”

As it should be, really. Or perhaps they could just cut back on Robinson’s salary, and the students could keep their books and desks.

This isn’t a race issue, and it certainly isn’t an issue of socio-economic status; it’s an issue of a school being unfit to educate the children of our city, and the public should be furious with the likes of Theaola Robinson, Jarvis Johnson and Harold Dutton, who in reality are complacent with children in this city getting an awful education.


  • The reality at Benji's is not being addressed. Although blacks are in the majority at the school both in staff and attendance, I do not think it is a race issue. The reality is the school is under-funded but overstaffed. There is no financial impropriety but high payroll for the measly allocations allotted by TEA. Agreeably Ms. Robinson made about $120,000.00 in 2009 or that average over the years compare to the supposedly assigned TEA overseer is 26.00% less. Benji's has survived without subsidy for food granted that all its students are below poverty level. The real issues at Benji's is far from financial mismanagement but mere propaganda by disgruntled people who one way or the other were associated with the school and fell off with Ms. Robinson. I will be honest and call a spade a spade, Ms. Robinson has her issues and for some reasons, I or maybe you should sympathize with her. She grew up when race issue was the order of the day. She saw her parents and family mistreated and maybe somehow she has cultivated some mistrust.

  • Continuation………..
    During the onset of this hold debacle, she felt that she struggled to open the school and should not be pushed around. She however worked with the conservators who were initially sent to the school, although there were difficulties. Be it also known that the initial conservators were paid from moneys allocated to the school far more than the rate paid Ms. Robinson. It is sad that civil leaders who should be addressing the real issues are diverting from them and playing the race card. I admonish you to go over at the school and do firsthand investigation and you will be surprised. TEA sided with the disgruntled people, strangled the school financially and when it could not meet its current liabilities, closed it down. The story about the school being rated academically unacceptable is also embellished. The school was rated acceptable academically but unacceptable in its dropout rate. Those figures quoted by TEA are inflated and are not current liabilities except payroll taxes. That is the reality.

  • I reallly do agree with above comments…as a former chief administrator at Benji's Academy…for a number of years….Benji's is pound for pound the best academic school in the is a true open enrollment charter school…no test to get records for drop outs to produce….just come in and if there is an opening and the child agrees to follow the rules then he/she is enrolled…Benji's Academy YOU TEA….

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