Claycomb Associates, Architects

Repost!  In Dallas County, the 8th most populous county in the United States, parents, taxpayers, and elected officials are consistently flooded with marketing brochures, advertisements, and newspaper op-eds promoting the success of taxpayer funded, privately managed charters. In most cases, the promotions target African American, Hispanic, and Economically Disadvantaged students with promises of future success in “college and the jobs of tomorrow.” At face value, the promotions are appealing as every parent wants the best for their child. However, the promotions are primarily the work of privately funded charter advocacy organizations formed to influence the opinion of parents and elected officials to expand the number of charters in local communities. Consequently, charter advocacy organizations are led by public policy professionals and the promotions of charter advocacy organizations are often a form of political advertising.    (11) view article arw

Mercedes Schneider read the letter posted by the board of the celebrated IDEA charter chain. She noted that the chief executive officer and chief operating officer had been fired. She dug deeper and wondered about a culture of corruption and self-aggrandizement that went beyond the leaders who were fired. The May 25, 2021 Houston Chronicle reports of the firing of IDEA Public Schools charter chain CEO JoAnn Gama and CFO Irma Muñoz “after a forensic review found ‘substantial evidence’ that top leaders at the state’s largest charter network misused money and staff for personal gain ‘in a manner to avoid detection by the standard external audit and internal control processes that the Board had in place. view article arw

The needs of Texas students are more varied and complex than ever before. During the pandemic, this reality became inescapable, especially for the children in our communities who are most vulnerable and the families that have long been underserved. We know that our public education system must become more creative. More flexible. More focused on providing all students exactly what they need to unlock their potential. view article arw

The IDEA charter chain in Texas was one of Betsy DeVos’s favorite grantees. She handed over $200 million from the federal Charter Schools Program to IDEA to spur its expansion. With so much money, the management of IDEA indulged in luxuries. They planned to lease a private jet for $2 million a year but backed off because of adverse publicity. They bought season box seats at the San Antonio Spurs basketball games. When the founder resigned, he was given a $1 million golden parachute. view article arw

IDEA Public Schools CEO JoAnn Gama and Chief Operating Officer Irma Muñoz have been fired after a forensic review found “substantial evidence” that top leaders at the state’s largest charter network misused money and staff for personal gain, the organization’s board president announced Tuesday. In a letter to IDEA staff, Board President Al Lopez did not disclose details about the questionable spending and use of staff. Lopez did allege that staff members’ actions “appeared to be done in a manner to avoid detection by the standard external audit and internal control processes that the Board had in place at the time.” view article arw

Chester-Upland school district is one of the poorest in the state. Seventy percent of its students are black. One big charter school, owned and operated by a wealthy Republican lawyer from Philadelphia, already dominates the district with his Chester Community Charter School. The district has been in receivership and under state control for years. Even though CCCS is a low-performing charter, the state’s only idea is to hand over all the schools to charter operators. This is an important story, well told by this reporter. It follows the template for charterization: Underfund a predominately African-American school district for years, then have the state take control because of financial issues. Strip the school board of all power and appoint a single “receiver” to make all decisions. view article arw

A judge has dismissed a Texas State Teachers Association lawsuit against Longview ISD over its expansion of Senate Bill 1882 charter schools. The order was filed Thursday in Gregg County. Association spokesman Clay Robison said in a statement that the group is reviewing its legal options. A Longview ISD spokesman said in a statement that the district is pleased that the judge “correctly applied the law and found the plaintiffs were not entitled to second-guess the board’s decisions.” view article arw

Overview of Charter Expansion Process and SB 28: The Texas legislature has imposed a hybrid approval process to approve the expansion of privately operated charter schools (“charters”). Existing charters may expand solely at the discretion of the appointed Commissioner of Education and new charters are also approved by the Commissioner; but are subject to veto by the State Board of Education (“SBOE”). view article arw

PTC is joining with many parent groups and school boards to fight this direct assault on local control and democracy. Pastors for Texas Children is a staunch ally of public schools and of separation of church and state. They have vigorously fought vouchers and now they are fighting an all-out attempt by the yet the aggressive charter industry to open wherever they want, without the approval of local elected officials. The lobbyists also want to slash the state board of education’s power to veto new charters. PTC is working with parent groups and other activists to stop this direct assault on local control and democracy. view article arw

Fort Worth school officials hope a new partnership with a charter school operator will turn a struggling middle school into one of the district’s strongest campuses. Beginning this summer, the district will bring in Phalen Leadership Academies to operate J. Martin Jacquet Middle School, an F-rated campus in the Stop Six neighborhood. The partnership is for five years, at the end of which district officials say they expect the school to have an A rating in the Texas Education Agency’s annual school accountability rating.  Fort Worth school officials say the partnership will give the district more flexibility and more money to help turn the school around. The charter network’s founder, Earl Phalen, can point to cases elsewhere in which the network has helped low-performing schools improve. But in other cases, such partnerships have fallen well short of expectations.    (26) view article arw

The D.C. Public Charter School Board will consider the opening of five new charter campuses on Monday — even as public school enrollment in the city is slightly down during the pandemic and campuses in the traditional public and charter sectors are operating under capacity. It’s a question the board, which authorizes charter campuses, faces each year: Just how many new charter schools should open in the city? On one side, prospective charter school founders say that existing schools aren’t adequately serving students and that they are offering an option some families want. On the other side, education leaders say forcing schools to compete over students in a city where there is not enough demand to fill existing seats puts all schools at a disadvantage and stretches budgets too thin. view article arw

I wish our legislators would read this - In this report, we focus on the world of charter schools run for profit, a world both hidden and misunderstood. We pull back the veil on tactics and practices designed to reap as many public dollars as possible from charter schools while hiding behind laws designed to keep profit-making hidden from the public’s eyes. This report exposes how both large and small for-profit companies evade state laws that make for-profit charter schools illegal by the use of related entities and a nonprofit front. We explain and provide examples of how for-profit owners maximize their profits through self-dealing, excessive fees, real estate transactions, and under-serving students who need the most expensive services. view article arw

Members of the Longview ISD community spoke Thursday with Superintendent James Wilcox on topics such as charter agreements, staffing and remote learning. The first “A Conversation with Dr. Wilcox” gathering was held at Longview ISD’s administration building for stakeholders to ask questions related to the district. Limited space was available for event attendance, but questions could be submitted in advance, and the meeting was livestreamed. A few submitted questions concerned the district’s Senate Bill 1882 charter partnerships. SB 1882 is legislation that gives public school districts financial incentive for partnering with nonprofit organizations to operate campuses as charter schools. All of Longview ISD’s schools are SB 1882 charters. view article arw

A federal judge Friday ordered Richard Garza, the former superintendent of Houston Gateway Academy, to serve five years in prison for siphoning off more than a quarter-million dollars from the charter school network in 2014 with the aid of a co-conspirator. Garza, 61, pleaded guilty to theft from a federally funded program in September 2019, but then backpedaled from the deal. The ex-superintendent sought to withdraw his plea because of information he thought would benefit his case and that his lawyers obtained after he’d agreed to the plea deal, his lawyer said. This request was rejected by U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. last month. view article arw

Carol Corbett Burris was a teacher and principal on Long Island, in New York state for many years. After retiring, she became executive director of the Network for Public Education.  She writes: view article arw

If our recent deep freeze taught Texans anything, it’s that effective transparency and oversight is critical when it comes to essential common goods like electricity. High-quality public education for all Texas school children is also an essential common good. Transparency and oversight of our public school districts is carried out by your local school board. Unfortunately, transparency and oversight of charter schools is frequently relegated to investigative journalism like what uncovered IDEA Public School’s use of taxpayer dollars to fund private jets and box seats at the Alamodome for administrative staff among others. Given this complicated history regarding inadequate public charter school transparency, it’s especially disappointing that members of the Texas Legislature have submitted bills (HB-3279 and SB-28) that would eliminate an integral barrier of entry for new charter school applications, the Texas State Board of Education. view article arw

During the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees meeting Monday, Trustee Tracy Fisher outlined several bills at the Texas Legislature being closely monitored by the district. Among those are the ones that deal with charter schools. Fisher said there have been 35 bills filed that have to do with charter schools. She expressed concern on some of those that would provide more charter school funding.  “Texas is a gold rush for charter schools, and many of these bills would open up Texas public funding to more of them,” Fisher said, “and give more flexibility.”  Fisher said a lot of money has gone to legislative campaigns to support charter schools. view article arw

Joseph Frilot said when he graduated as valedictorian of his Houston public high school in 2010, he could count on his hand how many of his 200 fellow classmates were planning to go to college. Now a teacher at IDEA Montopolis—one of five charter schools operated by IDEA Public Schools in Austin—he said he wished his community had a similar option when he was growing up.  “As an African American who attended a public school district, I saw firsthand how students were not being pushed into college,” he said. “Black and brown students who grew up in communities similar to mine are not being able to receive the education they deserve, and in my eye, we give them that at IDEA.” view article arw

HB 450 Introduced

April 0608:30 AM

Relating to the establishment of a new open-enrollment charter school or campus and to the expansion of an open-enrollment charter school. view article arw

The Texas Senate Education Committee bowed to the wishes of the powerful charter lobby and granted sole power to the State Commissioner (appointed by the Governor) to approve charter schools. His decisions can be vetoed only by a supermajority of the State Board of Education. The State Commissioner of Education is Mike Morath. He is not an educator. He is a software executive who served on the Dallas school board and advocated for charter schools. Local elected authorities—including mayors and school boards—are prohibited from blocking a charter school that wants to open in its jurisdiction. Charters can locate wherever they choose without regard to the views of local communities that want to protect their own public schools from rapacious charters.    (1) view article arw

As a little girl living out of a duffel bag, schools were one of the few stable environments I could rely on. Georgina C. Perez When I got older, the fact that there were other displaced kids just like me out there drove me to work my way from the maquiladoras and night classes to my first job in a classroom. After a decade of working with El Paso’s highest-risk students, I was proud to be chosen by our community to fight for our schools on the Texas State Board of Education. view article arw

Another arena has emerged in the ongoing fight between charter school operators and their detractors: local planning and zoning committees.  Critics of charter schools have increasingly sought to slow or stop their spread through local governmental bodies, arguing in zoning, city planning and permitting cases against the expansion of charter campuses in their neighborhoods.  Uplift Education, the largest charter operator in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with 21,500 students, narrowly won approval in 2016 for its Wisdom campus in Red Bird, getting past a divided council by one vote. Another large operator, International Leadership of Texas, couldn’t get zoning approval in 2018 for a K-8 campus in southern Dallas, and resorted to opening in Lancaster instead.    (30) view article arw

The charter industry is turning its lobbyists loose in Texas. Despite the large number of charters in the state (more than 800), the lobbyists want more. More. More. $$$. The Legislature is now debating changes in state law to remove obstacles to charter entrepreneurs and corporations that want more locations. Texas doesn’t need more charters: Charters in Texas are regularly outperformed by public schools. The Houston Chronicle reports: view article arw

It has become cliche for politicians and policy makers to oppose “for profit” charter schools. It’s also a safe stance, because most people agree they’re a bad idea; for-profit charter schools are not legal in almost all states. But charter school profiteers have found many loopholes, so that while they may not be able to set up for-profit charters, they can absolutely run charter schools for a profit. That may seem like a distinction without a difference, but the difference is that one is illegal in almost all states, and the other, as outlined in a new report, can be found from coast to coast. The new report, “Chartered for Profit,” from the Network for Public Education examines the size and reach of “the hidden world of charter schools operated for financial gain.” (Full disclosure: I am a member of NPE.) view article arw

Companion bills filed in the Texas House and Senate, seeking to do away with hurdles facing charter schools that try to open or expand, have bipartisan support but will move the sharp ongoing debate over their rapid growth into the legislative arena. Supporters of Senate Bill 28, called the Charter School Equity Act, say it would level the playing field for new and existing charter schools across the state by preventing local governments from treating them differently from traditional public schools and by relaxing state controls. Advocates for traditional public school districts say the playing field is tilted in favor of charter schools. The way to level it would require much more state oversight and local input, not less, they say. view article arw