School operations deserve oversight from the Texas Education Agency. - Don't let the name fool you. Charter schools are still public school. They rely on taxpayer funding just the same and deserve the highest scrutiny by the Texas Education Agency.  Take the case of Accelerated Intermediate Academy, which has received more than $55 million in public funds since opening in 2001.  That charter system educates 500 or fewer mostly Hispanic and black students and, by all objective measures, meets academic guidelines. However, its fiscal governance raises all sorts of big red flags.  Rather than stick his head in the sand, Education Commissioner Mike Morath should fulfill his role as a public watchdog and direct the agency to find out what's going on. view article arw

Texans maintain they’ve been on a roll ever since 1901, when oil was discovered at Spindletop Hill. Perhaps. But when it comes to charter schools, there’s a more recent roll taking place that may rival Spindletop. Dramatic changes are happening after a decade when Texas charters “lost their swagger and went on autopilot,” as one charter network founder put it. Now, the swagger appears to have returned. Skeptical? Consider these developments: view article arw

As Austin ISD faces the possibility of shuttering Mendez Middle School due to repeated unacceptable accountability ratings from the Texas Education Agency, trustees are considering converting the school into an in-district charter under Senate Bill 1882.Located in Southeast Austin, Mendez is in its fourth consecutive year of Improvement Required ratings under the TEA’s accountability system. After three consecutive years Texas Education Code requires the state’s commissioner of education to close the school or appoint a board of managers for the entire district. view article arw

A charter school operator with high hopes for fast-paced expansion symbolically broke ground in College Station on Thursday for a new facility that school officials say will offer an internationally focused education. The K-8 school being built near the corner of Graham Road and Longmire Drive in College Station is one of two campuses -- the second will be in Houston -- that International Leadership of Texas will open in August 2018. ILT leadership, along with College Station Mayor Karl Mooney, Lt. Col Jay Brewer with the Texas A&M University Band and Berry Davis, Texas A&M student athlete development director, celebrated the construction, which is already underway. view article arw

A new online tool will allow parents to apply to five Houston-area charter school networks at once, including KIPP Houston and YES Prep Public Schools.  The website applyhouston,org, which debuts Wednesday, uses one standard application for parents seeking to enter their children into lotteries for the KIPP, YES Prep, Promise Community Schools, A+ Unlimited Potential and Étoile Academy charter networks. The site was created by Families Empowered, a local nonprofit that connects parents with school choice options in the Houston area.  "What we find are many parents might apply to one network, but not another similar network," said Rachael Dempsey, strategic communications manager for Families Empowered. "What we really want to see is parents using this application to compare more options." view article arw

Starting today, families in Houston can apply to five charter school networks using just one online form. The common application, called ApplyHouston, is available for the 2018–19 school year for pre-K through 12th grade. Parents can fill out a single application for all the students in their family and select the schools they want to receive it. In previous years, each school had separate forms with different deadlines and required an application for each child. More than 50 schools in five charter networks — KIPP Houston Public Schools, Yes Prep Public Schools, Étoile Academy, Promise Community Schools, and A Plus Unlimited Potential Charter Schools — are participating. view article arw

The Texas Charter Schools Association named Soner Tarim, founder/CEO of Harmony Public Schools, as the Leader of the Year at its October conference.  He received his award at a luncheon with keynote speaker Education Commissioner Mike Morath.  David Dunn, TCSA executive director, said, "Under Dr. Tarim's direction, Harmony Public Schools is the largest charter network in the state, delivering an excellent STEM education to students who achieve great outcomes. Not only is he a strong leader, he is a true friend." view article arw

The founder of a group of prominent charter schools admitted to stealing millions of dollars and lying to the FBI. “Scott Glasrud used to be the head of the Southwest Learning Centers, representing three different charter schools. Now, Glasrud faces up to five years in federal prison. “Glasrud accepted a plea deal in Albuquerque Federal Court Wednesday, admitting to what federal prosecutors call a 15-year fraud scheme. Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Mexico say the scheme started in November 2000 and continued until Glasrud left the charter school consortium in 2014. view article arw

Jim Hall of Arizonans for Charter School Accountability has a mission. He insists that charter schools should be accountable to taxpayers for the public money they receive. In Arizona, the charter laws are written to ensure that charter schools seldom are accountable. He produced this example as the poster charter for total non-transparency and non-accountability. A member of the legislature, Representative Eddie Farnsworth, owns a chain of charter schools. It has a budget of $18 Million. He is the only member of the board. State law says that “all legal actions of a public body must be made in a meeting open to the public.” State law says that such meetings must be open to the public. view article arw

David Safier writes in the Tucson Weekly about well-funded efforts by the billionaire Koch Brothers to promote their anti-government, free-market libertarian views into local high schools. “The course was created by the University of Arizona’s Center for the Philosophy of Freedom, which designed the curriculum, wrote the textbook and offers workshops for high school teachers instructing them on how to teach the class. The Freedom Center, which has been at UA since 2011, gets a majority of its funding from the Koch Brothers and a wealthy Arizona donor couple who are big contributors to and play an influential part in the Koch network. view article arw

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Starting next school year parents will have more choices for where they can send their child to learn. IDEA Public Schools will open four new schools for the 2018-2019 school year, IDEA Academy and College Prep Pflugerville and schools by the same names in Kyle. It will be the first ever charter school in Kyle.  Students in kindergarten through second and sixth grade will be admitted for next fall and then each year after that IDEA will add a grade level. Each school has 480 spots open and so far IDEA has received more than 1,200 applications. It is expecting more. view article arw

Gary Rubinstein has been tracking the progress—and the hubris—of the Tennessee Achievement School District. The ASD was created with millions drawn from Tennessee’s $500 Million Race to the Top Grant, the first in the nation. The basic idea was that the ASD would create a special district for the state’s lowest performing schools, turn them over to charter operators, and within precisely five years, these schools would be “catapulted”into the top 25% of the schools in the state. The first cohort of six schools were in the bottom 5% of schools in the state. view article arw

The Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) named Dr. Soner Tarim the Leader of the Year at the 2017 Texas Charter Schools Conference on Oct 16. Tarim, Founder and CEO of Harmony Public Schools, received his award at a luncheon with keynote speaker Education Commissioner Mike Morath. “I am thrilled to recognize Dr. Soner Tarim as TCSA’s Leader of the Year,” said David Dunn, executive director for TCSA. “Under Dr. Tarim’s direction, Harmony Public Schools is the largest charter network in the state, delivering an excellent STEM education to students who achieve great outcomes. Not only is he a strong leader, he is a true friend.” view article arw

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath says the state will help charter schools hit hard by Harvey’s wrath just as it is helping traditional school districts recover. Morath told lawmakers this week that it will be months before the state truly has an idea of how much it will cost to help schools recover, though estimates are that it will likely top $1 billion. view article arw

Millions in new federal funding is adding major firepower to the charter school invasion sweeping through Texas, and now some traditional public school districts are looking to partner with the independent educators they once saw as their sworn enemy. Charter growth has been booming across Texas since the Legislature first authorized the use of state funds for them two decades ago. view article arw

Former State Board of Education vice-chair Thomas Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant) has penned another provocative commentary comparing the performance of state-licensed charter operations and traditional school districts. It is provocative because it focuses on facts and sets aside the hype generated by the charter industry and its political allies. We reprint Ratliff’s essay here for your edification: view article arw

BASIS schools have been called “America’s best,” and “most challenging” by Newsweek and The Washington Post. What they sell — a highly rigorous public education — is undoubtedly alluring to parents who are dissatisfied with public schools.  The network had its start in Tucson as a single charter school. Arizona Daily Star reporter Yoohyun Jung spent months investigating how BASIS went from a small Tucson school to an international network of charter and private schools. view article arw

The recent release of the state’s accountability ratings for public charter schools and traditional independent school districts reveals that Texas charter schools are continuing to show academic progress that rivals the performance of traditional public schools. One notable indicator of improved charter performance is the fact that while the “met standard” performance of traditional ISD campuses improved by 4.9 percent from the 2012-13 school year until now, charter campus performance improved by 11 percent over the same span. Digging deeper, it is important to note that districts and charter holders who are “not rated” are included in the state’s “met standard” percentage. Currently, 11 of 180, or 6.3 percent of all charter holders, are not rated. view article arw

BASIS Schools hit the top of all the high school ratings because its curriculum is so rigorous that many students drop out. That leaves only the creme de la creme in the school, and the folks who rank high schools go giddy at the BASIS results. Look at those scores! Look how many AP exams they passed! Why this should be the model for all schools, say its admirers. Behind all that rigor and grit and weeding-out of average students is a sophisticated business operation. BASIS is a very successful business. BASIS is big business. And all this profit wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of taxpayers! view article arw

Millions in new federal funding is adding major firepower to the charter school invasion sweeping through Texas, and now some traditional public school districts are looking to partner with the independent educators they once saw as their sworn enemy. Charter growth has been booming across Texas since the Legislature first authorized the use of state funds for them two decades ago. view article arw

Updated Oct. 6 with newly released numbers of charter schools in Texas and Dallas and Tarrant counties.  Millions in new federal funding is adding major firepower to the charter school invasion sweeping through Texas, and now some traditional public school districts are looking to partner with the independent educators they once saw as their sworn enemy.  Charter growth has been booming across Texas since the Legislature first authorized the use of state funds for them two decades ago. view article arw

For the first time in Texas, public charter schools will receive state funding to pay for leasing and maintaining buildings and facilities — expanding their access to the state's limited money for public schools.In August, the Legislature passed House Bill 21, a school finance law that included up to $60 million annually for charter facilities funding beginning in fiscal year 2018-19. That funding will be divided per student among the charter schools that meet state standards. Charter advocates, who have petitioned for decades to get such funding, argue that the law is the first step toward receiving the same total dollars per student as traditional school districts. However, critics counter that the law diverts funds from the larger number of students who attend traditional public schools. view article arw

When charter schools recently were accused of sub-standard performance, the Texas Charter School Association defended charter school performance as “steadily improving” over time. While charter schools have seen improvement over the 20 years since their inception, it’s clear from five years of TEA data, that charter schools underperform as a whole compared to their ISD counterparts. This isn’t an opinion; it’s the facts. view article arw

For the first time in Texas, public charter schools will receive state funding to pay for leasing and maintaining buildings and facilities — expanding their access to the state's limited money for public schools. In August, the Legislature passed House Bill 21, a school finance law that included up to $60 million annually for charter facilities funding beginning in fiscal year 2018-19. That funding will be divided per student among the charter schools that meet state standards. Charter advocates, who have petitioned for decades to get such funding, argue that the law is the first step toward receiving the same total dollars per student as traditional school districts. However, critics counter that the law diverts funds from the larger number of students who attend traditional public schools. view article arw

La Petite Maternelle Fleur de Lys opened Sept. 18 at 11709 Drayton Drive, Austin. The school incorporates a play-based philosophy and is geared toward children ages 2.5-5 years. view article arw

Zoe Learning Academy, a charter elementary school serving about 150 students in Houston's Greater Third Ward, will shut down immediately due to financial problems. The charter's superintendent, Richard Rose, said the school didn't have enough students to generate sufficient revenue to operate. Enrollment at Zoe Learning Academy's campuses in Houston and Duncanville, a suburb of Dallas, had declined from about 500 in 2010-11 to about 300 this year. The Duncanville campus closed last week. view article arw

“We have a comprehensive plan for the city (and) the reason we have that is so that we don’t have high density, high intensity use like at a high school where you have a lot of beginning drivers that are packed together really dense and then you release them all at the same time.” – Jeff Casper, Mayor Pro Tem. A public hearing was conduct at the Sept. 18 city council meeting to consider an ordinance submitted for a charter high school to be located at 3200 Oates Drive. view article arw

Lawyer Robert Amsterdam was hired by the Republic of Turkey to investigate the Gulen charter school movement in the United States. The Turkish government is headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is engaged in political struggle with Fethullah Gulen. Gulen is a cleric who lives in seclusion in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. The Turkish government is Islamic, and Gulen is an Islamic cleric.  I can’t say that I understand the political issues, but I do know that Erdogan is not a democratic leader, and there are no heroes here. After a recent failed coup attempt, Erdogan blamed Gulen and proceeded to repress civil liberties and jail thousands of suspected Gulenists. view article arw

A Rowlett mother and advocate for Harmony Public Schools was recognized in Austin on Sept. 15 by the State Board of Education (SBOE) as one of the 15 honorees for the Heroes of Children Award. Teresa Cook was the only recipient there to represent a charter school. view article arw

Listen to Diane Ravitch clearly explain how public education is being damaged by the billionaires who want to destroy your community public schools. view article arw

Boxes and boxes of donations for victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas pulled out of San Pedro on Sunday, the efforts of a weeklong drive among schools in the Harbor Area. The amount of donations, said Lora Caudill, principal of Leland Elementary School in San Pedro, was overwhelming. view article arw

It took a lot of discussion and three attempts for a council consensus, but leaders of a local charter school finally got the approval for sewer service they wanted to built a new campus. Tuesday, the Flower Mound Town Council approved a master plan amendment that takes two tracts of land out of the Cross Timbers Conservation Development District (CTCDD) and gives them the land use designation “estate residential and institutional uses.” view article arw

Ohio leads the nation in letting low-performing public schools fail. But a report published Thursday shows that the controversial practice of shuttering public schools, which disproportionately affects minority and poor students, leaves families with about as good a chance of finding a better education as the flip of a coin. In fact, less than half of students displaced by school closings found themselves at better performing schools three years later. view article arw